SOMALIA: Security restored in Bakara market

Friday, July 27, 2007

Trading has resumed in the Bakara market, the main business centre in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, after weeks of violence and security restrictions.

"The market is open for business and there are no restrictions of any kind hampering its activities," government spokesman Abdi Haji Gobdon told IRIN on 25 July.

Bakara was under siege by Ethiopian-backed government forces for nearly three weeks while they scoured the area for illegal weapons. The government said the market was a hide-out for insurgents.

Ali Muhammad Siad, chairman of the Bakara Market Traders’ Association, said his group met senior government officials, including Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, and agreed on a number of issues to allow the market to reopen.

The two sides agreed that all armed forces would be removed and only uniformed policemen, working with a committee of traders, would be allowed into the market.

"We also agreed that all roadblocks [erected by the security forces] around the market will be removed and all searches by the police will be done in the presence of the traders’ committee," said Siad.

The violence in the capital in general, and the market in particular, caused a 50 to 100 percent price increase in basic necessities, including transport, water, food and other non-food items, according to civil society organisations.

Bakara serves as a wholesale market, supplying smaller trading centres in the city and the rest of country. In the absence of a central bank in Somalia, it is also the place where foreign exchange rates are decided.

Thousands of people depend on the market for business and employment. Siad said: "If things continue the way they are we should be back to normal in a short time."

According to a local journalist, lorries were delivering goods to the market for the first time in more than two weeks. "I am now walking in Bakara and looking at trucks unloading sugar and rice," he said.

"Even the dollar has come down slightly from 18,000 shillings to 17,500 per dollar," he added.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA-Somalia) said the restrictions on daily activities in war-torn Mogadishu had a severe impact on the livelihoods of the population. The market closure also caused difficulties for people who receive remittances from relatives abroad.

OCHA said the security situation deteriorated with the start of the National Reconciliation Conference (NRC) on 15 July, when civilian deaths and injuries were reported daily, as government troops, their Ethiopian allies and insurgents exchanged fire.

Source: IRIN