On February 22, Ethiopia ended the terrorist organization Al Shabab’s three-year occupation of Somalia’s third largest city, Baidoa. Located halfway between the Ethiopian border and Mogadishu, the city had served as Somalia’s provisional capital between 2007 and 2009, when Ethiopian troops defeated armed factions of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), allowing the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to set up shop. Throughout this period, widespread rumors of Ethiopian soldiers indiscriminately bombing and raping the civilian population awakened local ire. Therefore, in 2009, locals were not sad to see the Ethiopians and the TFG leave, to be replaced by an organization viewed to be sympathetic to their interests.
After three years of rule by Al Shabab, however, support for the group seems to have waned. The militants made the mistake of throwing out the humanitarian agencies operating in the area but did not offer any alternatives to their services. So people went hungry. Now with the possibility of NGOs and foreign aid agencies returning, the people of Baidoa say there is hope for the future.