Hundreds of protesters marched in the streets of Mogadishu yesterday to denounce the presence of Ethiopian forces, as renewed fighting rocked Somalia’s volatile capital. Waving sticks and chanting “Allahu Akbar” (God is great), the crowd moved from Mogadishu’s southern Black Sea district to Ali Kamin and the stadium area near an Ethiopian army base.
“Down with Ethiopia! Down with the Somali government!” the protesters chanted. “We don’t need them on our soil. Ethiopia must leave otherwise its presence will lead to more bloodshed,” said one protester, Abdi Adan Somane. Fresh fighting between insurgents and Ethiopian-backed government forces left at least six civilians dead on Saturday, as the capital’s population continued to bear the brunt of the months-old conflict.
The Ethiopian army came to the rescue of Somalia’s embattled transitional government last year to defeat the Islamic Courts Union, a fundamentalist militia that briefly controlled large parts of the country. Since the militia was ousted earlier this year, its remnants and allied tribal leaders have waged a guerrilla-style war, carrying out hit-and-run attacks mainly in Mogadishu.
“This is an uprising against the Ethiopian colonialists and its stooges,” said another demonstrator, who declined to give his name. “We will continue day after day until they leave our country because we don’t need them.” Even as the march snaked through the streets of southern Mogadishu, heavy fighting between insurgents armed with grenade launchers and Somali government forces in armoured vehicles erupted in the Hodan neighbourhood.
The absence of most major international organisations and NGOs in the lawless capital has made it difficult to calculate an accurate death toll, but civilians are believed to have died by the hundreds since June.