Monday, August 07, 2006

Somalia's Radio Mogadishu under Islamists' control

Somalia’s resurgent Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) have taken the territories where the country’s former national radio is located in the capital Mogadishu. Sources in the capital have told BBC Monitoring that the Radio Mogadishu (Voice of the People of the Somali Republic) is now under the Islamists’ control.

The station is located near Villa Somalia, which was the residence of the country’s late President Siyad Barre. The surrounding areas fell to the Islamists on 27 July 2006. These territories were until then under the control of the Somali National Alliance (SNA), which is led by Husayn Aydid, who is the interior minister and deputy prime minister in the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. Besides handing over the villa, Aydid’s supporters also surrendered their weapons. It is unclear whether the station was among the properties surrendered to the Islamists.

Sources in Mogadishu have however told the BBCM that the station is now under the Islamists’ control. The UIC’s intentions remain unclear and BBC Monitoring has not noticed any changes in the station’s programming or management structure.

If the Islamists decide to impose direct, effective control on the station, Radio Mogadishu (Voice of the People of the Somali Republic) will become the first Somali station officially allied to the Islamists, who already have their own web site.

The head of the UIC’s information council, Shaykh Abdirahim Ali Mudey, told the private Somali Shabeelle radio on 3 August that “the time anyone could broadcast whatever report they desire was over”.

Aydid assumed control of the station from his late father, Muhammad Farah Aydid, who was one of the most powerful faction leaders in Mogadishu in the early 1990s. The senior Aydid had taken control of Radio Mogadishu when he captured the capital in 1991. The station became his mouthpiece, a trend which continued during the reign of his son. The radio also became known as the SNA radio. Aydid’s power base has been ebbing and the capture of the villa marked his final capitulation.

Radio Mogadishu operates between 0300 and 0500 gmt, and 0900 to 1900 gmt. It airs news bulletins at 0330, 1115, 1400 and 1700 gmt.

Its programming is exclusively in Somali. Besides news, the station also airs health and educational programmes, and phone-in programmes.

(Source: BBC Monitoring research in English 7 Aug 06/R. Netherlands Media Network Weblog)