Somalis March Across Cease-Fire Line Calling for Peace
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ A top clan elder and thousands of his people marched back and forth across Mogadishu’s treacherous cease-fire line on Friday in support of a recent peace agreement.
Accompanied by the elder, Imam Mohammod Imam Omar, and officials from the capital’s two warring political factions, the exuberant men, women and children chanted ″Today is a great day 3/8″ and waved purple flowers.
″This march could bring my mother and father back together for the first time in 2 1/2 years,″ said Abdi Hassan Ali, 23, as he marched with the crowd across the so-called Green Line and into northern Mogadishu.
Since Somalia’s civil war and famine, his mother has supported Mohamed Farrah Aidid and his Habre-Gedir clan in the south, while his father backed the Agbal sub-clan and faction leader Ali Mahdi Mohamed in the north.
″My mother told me that if this march works she will return to my father again, and that will definitely happen now,″ Ali said in an interview.
On Sunday, the clans of war-torn Mogadishu reached a peace agreement at a hotel in a northern area of the capital and promised to punish anyone who violated it under harsh laws they would draw up.
Since then Ali Mahdi and officials of Aidid’s Somali National Alliance have supported the reconciliation agreement signed by their clan elders.
But their militias also have been rearming, taking over positions abandoned by U.N. soldiers, and erecting defenses that could be used in fighting after U.S. forces finish withdrawing from Somalia on March 31.
Aidid also continues to demand that all the U.N. forces withdraw from Somalia and to reject local councils the United Nations is helping Somalis create in preparation for the appointment of a transitional government.
When the march began on Friday, the sabbath in this Muslim nation, thousands of people from southern Mogadishu walked two miles to the Green Line, which is heavily guarded by militiamen carrying assault rifles and machine guns.
In the buffer zone of abandoned houses on both sides of the line, members of the militias stood guard in windows, but didn’t display their guns.
After meeting and joining up with crowds of people in the north, the march returned to southern Mogadishu and gathered outside a building used by the Somali National Alliance. Inside, the same clan elders who reached the peace pact enjoyed lunch and celebrated their successful march.
″The welcome we received up north was remarkable,″ Mohamed Kediye Geel, a southern Mogadishu clan elder, said in the crowded jubilant conference room. ″We have reunified the Habre-Gedir clan and the Agbal sub-clan. Now we’re ready to bring all Somalis back to the negotiating table.″
Meanwhile, in Beled Weyne, a town in central Somalia, German U.N. soldiers opened fire on two Somalis who cut a hole in the barbed wire surrounding their camp and ran into it Thursday night. One of the Somalis was killed and the other fled the scene. No German soldiers were injured.