Over the last month Somalia’s government has cut a peace deal with rival tribal factions which ended some of the worst of the violence.
At the same time, a major military offensive by the Ethiopian army succeeded in infliciting substantial damage on followers of the Islamic Courts Union – a well-armed opposition movement which briefly controlled Mogadishu and large parts of Somalia at the end of 2006.
Soon after Dheere’s speech, some businessmen from Mogadishu’s dominant Hawiye clan publicly handed over stocks of weapons to the small African Union peacekeeping force stationed in the city.
“We of the business community want to hand over these weapons to the government. We are happy that law and order is coming back,” Mahamud Gabayare, a Hawiye business leader, said.
Many businessmen had backed an Islamist movement that brought six months of relative stability to the capital until the government and Ethiopia routed them in a December war.
About 150 businessmen have registered to turn in weapons on Friday, Gabayare said.
But despite the weapons handover, it was unclear how the government would enforce a wide ban of weapons.
There are estimated to be tens of thousands of weapons in Mogadishu, and the government has so far made little effort to shut down the city’s Bakaara market – the city’s premier arms emporium.
EU reaches out to Eritrea
The European Union has reached out to Eritrea – a key supporter of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union – in a fresh attempt to end instability in Somalia.
Louis Michel, the European Union’s development commissioner, met Isaias Afwerki, the Eritrea president, at the European Commission’s headquarters in Brussels to discuss developments in the region.
|Asmara has backed Somali groups who are opposed to Ethiopia
“I was very, very honoured to receive him in the Commission,” Michel told a joint news conference on Friday.
“This is a main event, an important event, an international signal for the EU and for Eritrea.
“I have very high expectations in this new kind of relations between the Commission and Eritrea.”
Eritrea is widely seen by humanitarian organisations as one of the world’s worst absuers of human rights, with a draconian attitude to press freedom, freedom of speech and political opposition.
Many of the key leaders of the Islamic Courts Union have been given shelter in Asmara, the Eritrean capital, since they were driven out of Somalia by Ethiopian troops at the start of 2007.