Somalis Yearn for Islamic Rulers to Return and Tame the Warlords

June 15, 2007

Author: Steve Bloomfield

Source: Belfast Telegraph

The ruins of the old sugar factory in Marere, in the southern interior of Somalia, tower over the wooden shacks and brick huts which shelter the 2,000 or so people still living here.

This used to be the second-largest sugar factory in the world, employing more than 20,000 people. Now, its rusting steel frame, chimneys and pipes sunk deep into the tall grass provide a painful echo of the wreck which Somalia has become.

Everything worth anything has gone, the scrap metal systematically torn off and shipped to India or old equipment taken by scavengers to be sold off at the market in nearby Jilib.

"Maybe one day someone will rebuild it," said Abdirizak Hassan Moalim, squinting into the sun. The 21-year-old has been living in a village near the sugar factory for two months after fleeing the violence in Somalia's capital Mogadishu. "It needs to be safe here first though," he added. "There was a chance under the Courts, but now, I don't know." Six months after the fall of Somalia's Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), insecurity has returned to the country.

In this rural district in the south, where in the past 12 months floods have followed drought, the rule of the gun is back. The government has failed to take control, leaving Marere and the surrounding areas in limbo.

The UIC controlled Marere and the neighbouring district of Jilib for just three months at the end of last year. After Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, fell to the government and its Ethiopian allies at the end of December, the Courts melted away.

Local people, from teen-agers to elders, now talk of the brief period of rule by the Islamic Courts in wistful tones. For the first time in a generation, there was a level of security in the district that few had believed was possible. The various clan-based militias which terrorised the region, setting up checkpoints and settling disputes with guns, buried their arms.