Ethiopian tanks rolled into the outskirts of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, yesterday after Somalia's Islamist movement abandoned its bases in the city.
Somali government forces and their Ethiopian allies were wresting back control over Mogadishu as Islamist fighters, surrounded and outgunned, fled in convoy early in the morning towards the southern port city of Kismayo, the only town now controlled by the Somali Council of Islamic Courts. Other militiamen discarded their uniforms and joined clan-based militias in the capital. A number of Islamist leaders left the country.
Gunfire echoed around the capital as news of the withdrawal spread. SCIC bases were looted and several people were killed in a return to the anarchy that plagued the city before the courts came to power six months ago. Within hours, warlords who had been driven out by the Islamists were reclaiming their turf, including the presidential palace and the city's main port.
Somali prime minister Ali Mohamad Gedi said parliament would impose three months of martial law to prevent a return to anarchy. "In order to restore security we need a strong hand, especially with freelance militias," he told reporters.
So Ethiopia succeeded in ousting the Islamists who were on their way to take charge of Somalia. Now what will happen? Can the Ethiopian government help the new Somalian government take charge and bring some much needed stability to this nation? Will the Islamists continue fighting, and ultimately bring down this government? I don't know, except that their success nationally may depend on whether they can take hold of the capital city.
Whatever happens, I just hope that the poor people there can one day live in a stable, peaceful, and free land.