Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Only a few years ago, Somalia’s official government could not even enter the country and its ministers were forced to live in exile in Kenya. Then it moved into the country, but only as far as the ruined provincial town of Baidoa. The national capital, Mogadishu, was out of bounds, firmly in the hands of extreme Islamists allied to al-Qaeda.
Today, President Mohamud will take over a government that is based in Mogadishu with a good measure of control over the city and the surrounding area. For the first time since 1991, an internationally recognised administration actually holds sway over the national capital. By Somalia’s standards, that counts as a stellar achievement.
The credit goes largely to 9,000 Ugandan and Burundian soldiers deployed in Mogadishu by the African Union. They took on the Islamists from al-Shabaab and rolled them back, street by street, until they were finally expelled from the city at the beginning of this year. Today, al-Shabaab still controls most of southern Somalia, but they only have one remaining urban stronghold: the southern port town of Kismayo. If they were ever to lose that, al-Shabaab would also be deprived of a vital source of revenue. And the signs are that the AU force, with its proven ability to take on al-Shabaab and beat them, will move against Kismayo at some stage.
But a huge responsibility falls on the shoulders of the new president. Somalia’s official government has been riddled with corruption and infighting. He must ensure that a functioning administration will be able to govern the areas that are recaptured from al-Shabaab. It would be a tragedy if the African Union force pays the blood price for victories over the Islamists, only for these hard won gains to be squandered by the failings of Somalia’s government. President Mohamud must keep Somalia on its slow path towards recovery.
Source: The Telegraph