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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 July 2006, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Life under Somalia's Islamists
By Mohamed Olad Hassan
BBC News, Mogadishu

For 15 years, Mayow Abdalla has been afraid to leave his house.

Somali butcher
Meat prices have fallen since the Islamists took over
Mr Abdalla, a Somali of Yemeni origin who lives in the old district of Hamar-weyne in Mogadishu, had his own electronics shop until the Siad Barre regime fell in 1991, and the warlords took over.

"I am jobless but my brothers in Europe and Saudi Arabia send me money," he says.

"Some of my money was going directly into the hands of a militiaman, who told me he was providing security for my house, my six children, my wife and myself - on his own initiative."

"Now the guy has left, fearing that the Islamic courts would arrest him for his wrongdoings and I am planning to open a small shop outside my house."

Since the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) seized control of Mogadishu on 5 June, life in Mogadishu is getting better, and business people are optimistic.

Less extortion

There are far fewer check-points, where gunmen used to extort money from passing motorists and commercial vehicles.

The UIC gunmen do operate road blocks but they do not demand payment from civilians.

Now, thank God, I am with my family and giving up all my bad habits
Salad Ga'al, former fighter

As a result food prices have dropped.

One kilogramme of rice used to cost 9,500 Somali shillings (65 US cents) but the price is now 3,500 shillings.

Camel meat has also fallen from 30,000 shillings per kilo, to 22,000.

"We no longer hire security militia for our commodities and we don't pay militia check-points - that is why the goods are still at their normal prices," said businessman Abdikarin Abukar Fodare.

Refugees

The cautious optimism extends even to the city's refugee camps.

Safiya Hassan, who lives in one of the camps, earns a little money by washing clothes and utensils and uses it to support her four children and her sick husband, Januune.

Somali water-pusher
Most Somalis want to be left alone to earn money for their families
"Nothing has changed in our life but it did change for others," she says.

"So if the life of other people in the city changes, ours also changes, because I depend on them via my work and God's destiny."

The defeat of the warlords has also brought relief to those who were recruited to fight with them.

"My family was the gunmen, my bed was on the battle-wagons and the narcotic leaves, khat, was my favourite thing," says Salad Ga'al, a teenage boy who served six years in the militia.

"Now, thank God, I am with my family and giving up all my bad habits," he said.

"I have to create a new life and go to school for my future."

Mobile phones

If you go around the city and ask people about the changes in Mogadishu, many would first tell you about how things are more secure, however fragile the security may seem.

Car drivers and owners tell you they have no fear of robbery because there is no shelter for the perpetrators under the rule of Islamic courts.

map
Those who have mobile phones are happy that now they can answer their calls anywhere.

But with the young Islamic militia opposed to dancing, television and music, residents fear the future may turn into something like Afghanistan under the Taleban.

Being Muslims, most residents are reluctant to reject the idea of Islamic rule. Yet they are not happy with what they see as increasing radicalism in the city.

Robbers are arrested every day and are being put in jail.

In the 1990s, the first Islamic courts amputated the hands of thieves and stoned to death murderers and rapists.

One of the UIC's leaders, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, say it is not possible to enforce such Islamic punishments now but he says Sharia should become Somalia's law in the future.

Guns

The biggest worry is the weapons which are still in the hands of clan-based militia and ordinary Somalis.

Piles of AK-47 rifles and ammunition are still on sale at the Irtokte weapons market.

Somali gunmen
What is going to happen to all the weapons in Somalia?
Sa'id Mo'alin Kulow, a businessman at the market, says supplies of weapons from Yemen and Eritrea are still being smuggled into the bazaar despite the Islamic courts taking control.

"But previously Ethiopia was among the suppliers," he says.

Many Somalis and the transitional government would prefer the deployment of foreign troops in the country to disarm the militia, because the government is weak and no clan militia wants to hand their weapons to another clan.

The regional body, Igad, has promised to send troops, but the Islamic courts strongly oppose such a deployment and have called for war against foreign troops.

But further fighting is the last thing most Somalis want - they want to be left alone for the first time in 15 years to get on with the business of earning enough money to feed their families.


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