A victory for the free world, and for Somalia — if they can make it stick. By Mohamed Olad Hassan for Associated Press:
MOGADISHU, Somalia – Jubilant Somalis cheered as troops of the U.N.-backed interim government rolled into Mogadishu unopposed Thursday, putting an end to six months of domination of the capital by a radical Islamic movement.
Ethiopian soldiers stopped on the outskirts of town, after providing much of the military might in the offensive that shattered what had seemed an unbeatable Islamic militia. Islamic fighters fled south vowing to continue the battle.
“We are in Mogadishu,” Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Gedi declared after meeting with local clan leaders to discuss the peaceful hand-over of the city.
Despite the celebrations in the streets, worries about the future were widespread in a country that hasn’t had an effective national government since clan warlords toppled a longtime dictator 15 years ago.
Many in overwhelmingly Muslim Somalia are suspicious of the transitional government’s reliance on neighboring Ethiopia, a traditional rival with a large Christian population and one of East Africa’s biggest armies. Witnesses said crowds threw rocks at Ethiopians troops on the city’s northern edge.
Somalia’s complex clan politics also are a big worry, having undone at least 14 attempts to install a central government in this violent, anarchic nation.
Gedi’s government, set up in 2004 with U.N. backing, is riddled with clan rivalries, most notably between the young prime minister and elderly president.
“The future of Somalia is very bleak and Somalis will share the same fate with Iraq and Afghanistan,” a Mogadishu resident, Abdullahi Mohamed Laki, told The Associated Press. “The transitional government has no broad support in the capital.”