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Somalia’s Islamic militant group, al-Shabaab, is doing everything they can to get funds, food and shelter to continue their war against Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and African Union peacekeeping forces (AMISOM) in Mogadishu.
The group, which used to control more than half of Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu and the southern part of the country, lost one of their key strongholds and major money-makers of Bakara Market when AMISOM and TFG forces pushed them from most of the Mogadishu market in recent weeks.
In a desperate move, al-Shabaab ordered farmers in Lower and Middle Shabelle as well as Lower and Middle Juba regions to pay for water for their farms, which they normally get for free from the nearby river. The order which was imposed late last month was implemented on Monday.
Fighters from the group were being deployed around the Shabelle River to prevent farmers from watering their farms until they could prove they paid for the water. A farmer in Jowhar, the province’s capital city, told Somalia Report on condition of anonymity that al-Shabaab wants to 200 shilling for each hectare.
“They may kill us or take our whole property if we do not pay them,” the farmer explained. “It is a very painful matter to pay for water from the river but there is nothing we can do. If you do not pay, you may then forget about your farm.”
Another farmer who asked to call Yalaxow Ahmed because of his security told Somalia Report that he tilled and seeded his farm from a loan and does not know how he will he pay back the loan if he can't water his crops.
Farmers in Lower Shabelle were also ordered to pay 400 Somali shilling for each hectare.
In Juba regions, senior al-Shabaab officer Mustafe Yusuf Abu Yoonis on Wednesday told farmers in the region that the militant group is in financial crisis and asked to contribute money and food.
According to farmers, the officer gave them one week to bring ten sacks of flour from every farmer. The farmers who attended the conference in Buale town said they are fearful of the consequences if they do not come up with the money or flour.
Al-shabaab arrested forty farmers in Balad town in Middle Shabelle for failing to pay 400 shillings for every one hectare. Two were later released after they paid 45 million shillings and 42 million shillings, according to a local reporter in the city who added that the others remain in a jail.
Kicking Families and Elders to the Street
Meanwhile, the group ordered people living government owned buildings in the city to relocate so that al-Shabaab officials fleeing Mogadishu could move there. As a result, more than 40 families moved out of 20 homes with nowhere to go, including Haji Mohamud Haji who is a well-known elder in the city.
Hawo Bubay, a widow mother of six children born in the home, was part of one of the families forced to move outdoors. “We cannot rent another house because no one in the family works or earns money so we took to life outside rather than risking our lives against al-Shabaab,” she told Somalia Report.
Residents in Jowhar, 90km north of Mogadishu, told Somalia Report that al-Shabaab officials are increasingly coming to the city, which is coincidentally the hometown of Somalia’s president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a former Islamist leader.