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SOMALIA: MPs worried over increasing insecurity in Baidoa


NAIROBI, 4 April Members of Somalia's Transitional Federal Parliament, who are currently meeting in the town of Baidoa, have expressed concern over insecurity after armed militia blocked access to a parliamentary session on Saturday.

The parliamentarians were also apprehensive due to increased theft in Baidoa, 240 km south of the capital, Mogadishu. "There has been a spate of petty crimes, with MPs being robbed of their mobile phones and other valuables," said one parliamentarian, who requested anonymity. "We don't know what has caused this rise [in insecurity], but it is worrying."

Armed militia denied MPs entry into the conference hall for a parliamentary session on Saturday morning, a local journalist reported on Monday. The MPs were scheduled to form committees to oversee government work. The militia, who originally had been brought to the venue to provide security, complained that they lacked adequate shelter against the sun and rain, the journalist added.

"The incident has caused some tension and worry among the local population," said a businessman. The problem of insecurity had been exacerbated by the increased militia presence in the town. At least 1,000 militia had been encamped in Dayunay, 20 km northeast of Baidoa, since early February, ahead of the parliamentary session. Some had left the camp due to lack of proper support, such as shelter and food, he said. They had been largely blamed for many of the incidents of crime in the town.

Elders and MPs from the area had established a committee to deal with the problem, said another MP. "We are now meeting to find ways of resolving the situation," said parliamentarian Isak Muhammad Nur, who denied that the militia action in the meeting hall was politically motivated. "However misguided, they were expressing grievances," he said. "All of them [encamped militia] are back in the camp, and the situation is back to normal."

However, the businessman felt the problem was far from over. Unless the elders and MPs resolved the situation quickly, "It could turn into a political scenario, with those opposed to the conference [parliamentary session] taking place in Baidoa [taking] advantage of it," he said.

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