Fierce clan-based clashes in Lower Shabelle region are continuing with no sign of a peaceful resolution between the two warring militias despite the Somali government’s best efforts to resolve the conflict.
In an attempt to find a peaceful resolution to the violence, the federal government on June 9th sent a ministerial delegation to Marka and released a five-point action plan calling for the clan militias’ withdrawal from Marka, a ceasefire, and the Somali forces’ assumption of complete control over the town and its environs.
But the killing of five women in Marka on June 22nd — including one reported to be pregnant according to Universal TV– has further exacerbated the conflict and instilled fear among residents in the area.
Faisal Abdi, a 30-year-old owner of a food store in Marka, told Sabahi that business activities in the town have been heavily impacted by the clan conflict.
“Our business is not the same as before. We close [our shops] at 3 pm because everyone is afraid of the organised clan-based killings that are taking place in the town,” Abdi said. “What is surprising, however, is that women and children are now being killed.”
“Until now there has been no solution to the conflict between the Biyamal and Habar Gidir clans,” he said. “We keep hearing that the Somali government is engaged in peace efforts, but it looks as though there is a lot lacking in the attempts to find a solution to the recurrent conflicts.”
Abdi called on the Somali government to hold to account the clan members who are committing crimes against innocent civilians in Lower Shabelle.
Clan elders, residents urge both sides to accept peace
Saido Adam, a 27-year-old mother of four who lives in Marka, called on the clan elders fuelling the violence on both sides to stop, reminding them that “nothing but death and destruction of property comes from civil war”.
“We know that the ongoing clan warfare is being instigated by merciless individuals who are said to be clan elders and who are collecting money from the business people of the warring clans in order to purchase weapons,” she said. “However… There is no clan that can wipe out another clan in war, the more than 20 years of civil conflict we experienced are enough, we can see what we gained from that.”
Adam called on the government to arrest and prosecute anyone who commits a crime while the reconciliation efforts between the two warring clans are ongoing.
Salim Said, a 51-year-old traditional elder from Biyamal clan in El Waregow village, said a solution will only be reached if the Habar Gidir clan concedes his clan’s ancestral rights to Lower Shabelle region.
“The people know each other. The Biyamal clan own and reside in the areas where the conflict is raging and there will be no solution while the Habar Gidir clan is engaged in oppression,” Said told Sabahi. “We are not claiming ownership of Galgadud and Mudug. They should go there as that is where they reside. Where have you seen a man whose region is being falsely claimed and is being told to accept peace?”
For his part, Ugaas Ali Hashi Ugaas Ahmed, a Habar Gidir clan chief, said the conflict in Lower Shabelle region is not new, but has been dragging on for more than a year and a half with no one mediating between the two clans during that time.
“The government has in fact made several attempts to do something about it, but a solution can only be found when there is sincerity in the effort,” he told Sabahi.
Ahmed accused the Somali government of not being a neutral party in the negotiations, alleging that some of the weapons used by the Biyamal militia belong to the government, a claim that Said, the Biyamal elder, denied.
Nevertheless, Ahmed called on both clans to continue attempts to resolve their differences through dialogue and peaceful reconciliation.
Sabahi attempted to contact Somali government spokesman Ridwan Haji Abdiwali and some members of the delegation that visited Lower Shabelle, but they were not available to comment on the ongoing reconciliation efforts.