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Somalia: Who Supports Who?
Mogadishu, Sunday, June 18, 2006 – The United Nations has warned that fresh conflict is increasingly likely in Somalia, where Islamic forces have risen to power in recent weeks, rivaling the authority of the country's official transitional government. So where do key players find money, weapons and friends.
The transitional government is formally supported by the African Union, the United Nations and the regional grouping, the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (Igad).
But its strongest support comes from Ethiopia, where Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is reportedly determined not to see an Islamic state established on his borders.
Mr. Yusuf's interim government is based in Baidoa, not Mogadishu
There are strong, but unconfirmed, reports that as many as 500 Ethiopian troops may have entered Somalia and are now just east of Baidoa.
Their presence would be a powerful support for President Abdillahi Yusuf.
On Wednesday 14 June members of parliament in Baidoa passed a motion approving the deployment of foreign forces inside Somalia.
This was something the president had called for since he was elected in October 2004, when the transitional government was formed after years of discussions in Kenya.
President Abdillahi Yusuf's first visit was to Addis Ababa, and it was reported that he wanted a 20,000-strong mainly Ethiopian force to reinforce his government.
This was strenuously resisted by many Somalis, and by a number of neighboring governments.
So who is arming President Abdillahi Yusuf and the transitional government? Apart from the support his government has received from Ethiopia, there are a number of reports of Yemeni planes arriving in Baidoa, bringing arms and ammunition.
THE UNION OF ISLAMIC COURTS
The Union of Islamic Courts has brought order to Mogadishu
Finances for the courts are reportedly being provided by rich individuals in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.
There have also been reports that Eritrea - which has a long-running border dispute with Ethiopia - has been supplying arms to the Islamists. This is denied by the authorities in Asmara.
The chairman of the Union of Islamic Courts, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, has written to the United Nations, the European Union and the United States, calling for the establishment of friendly relations with the international community, based on mutual respect.
In his four-page letter he denied giving sanctuary to Islamic extremists, or groups loyal to al-Qaeda.
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
On 15 June diplomats in New York established the International Contact Group on Somalia, with the support of the US, Britain, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Tanzania and the EU. The African Union, Arab League and Kenya participated as observers.
The group called for an immediate end to the fighting in Somalia and for talks between the interim government and the Union of Islamic Courts.
The US was represented by Jendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.
She said it was unclear whether the Islamic militia or elements within it were linked to, or gave shelter to al-Qaeda operatives. But she said the union needed to be aware that the status of terrorists was a "core interest" of the US.
"What we're trying to do is gain greater information, fidelity, and also make it very clear to all entities in Somalia, whether it's clan elders, whether it's Islamic court militias, whether it's warlords, whether it's business people - however you want to characterize them - that these foreign terrorists are going to continue to be a critical interest of the United States. They have to be turned over."
The African Union, at a summit meeting in January 2006, called for the deployment of a regional military force to Somalia.
This would be in the form of an Igad peace support mission to be followed by an African Union peace support mission.
But the AU acknowledged that this could not take place until it had been granted an exemption by the UN Security Council, which is still attempting to enforce an arms embargo.
In a statement issued on 17 June, the AU appealed for a dialogue between the transitional government and the Union of Islamic Courts.