SOMALIA: Hundreds displaced in fighting over water and pasture

Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Hundreds of families have been displaced in Somalia's southwestern region of Gedo after two days of inter-clan fighting in which 13 people were killed and 24 wounded, according to locals.

The fighting, mostly around Luq, the district capital - 500km southwest of Mogadishu - broke out on 3 and 4 May between the Dir sub-clan of the Gaadsen and the Rahanwyen sub-clan of the Ma'alin Weyne.

A local journalist, Ahmed Omar Salihi, said the fighting was most intense in and around the villages of Wara'dey, 48km northeast of Luq, and Dulmuruh, 42km to the north.

He said the fighting was triggered by revenge killings for the deaths, a year ago, of a Gaadsen man in Dulmuruh village over ownership of a salt mine. Salihi said the area of the fighting was also close to water points and salt deposits, which has become a very lucrative trade.

He said almost 600 families abandoned their homes in the two villages for fear of renewed fighting. Many of the displaced families had no access to wells or Barkads (water catchments), he added.

In addition, there were no roads in the area, making it inaccessible and difficult to help the displaced, Salihi said.

The latest fighting had been "exacerbated by the current drought, shortage of water and the easy availability of heavy weapons and the terrain in which they are fighting", he said. The area was flat, offering no cover from the heavy weapons both forces were using.

Salihi said reports indicated both sides were regrouping and rearming.

The latest escalation of violence was attributed to disagreements over water sources and grazing lands, as well as ownership of the salt deposits, said Ugas Bilow Hassan Haidar, the traditional leader of the Ma'alin Weyne.

"This is about land and water and who really owns the resources here," Haidar told IRIN on 5 May.

By 5 May, Haidar said, the fighting had subsided, with only intermittent clashes reported. However, he said, without any talks, "it is just a matter of time before a new round of fighting begins".

Ugas Bare Ali, the traditional leader of the Gaadsen, told IRIN he had been approached by religious leaders and elders from a neutral clan for mediation purposes. "I am hopeful that an acceptable solution will be found, before things get out of hand," he said.

The journalist said both sides were claiming to be ready for peace talks, but so far no mediation efforts had begun. He said neutral clans and the local administration in Luq were trying to start mediation efforts.