Somalia's president wants Mo Farah to return to help country
By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
Somalia president has said he wants the Olympic Gold medallist Mo Farah to help secure the country's increasing stability by leading the return of "highly qualified" exiles to work for the government.
Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, who has been president since a surprise victory in presidential elections in September, said he wanted British government help to bring back Somalis living in Britain.
The former professor compared the situation in his country to that of Europe in 1945 but said there was an opportunity to restore a functioning government after 22 years of civil war.
Describing exiles as his country's greatest asset, Mr Mahmoud said he would use a London conference jointly organised by Britain and theSomalia government to establish ambitious programmes to rebuild health, education and government services.
He said he intended to approach the double Olympic gold medallist who was born in Somalia but sent to school in Britain to come home to help promote reconciliation.
"People like Mo Farah have a very big role in reconciliation and trust building in Somalia," he told The Daily Telegraph. "Mo [Farah] can be a very good role model for young people. It's a good time to seek the support of people like Mo Farah.
"Our people did not leave the country by choice but there were circumstances that compelled them to leave and made them a diaspora here. Those difficulties are now becoming an opportunity. We have people like Mo Farah who are highly qualified. This is a real asset for us."
Mr Mahmoud has presided over a rapid transformation of Somalia. The al-Shabaab terrorist movement has been pushed out of the capital and has control over a shrinking footprint. Foreign troops from an African peacekeeping mission and Kenya have pushed the al-Qaeda affiliated movement to the brink of losing its last strongholds.
"Shabaab in Somalia is virtually defeated. They do not control much territory, their command and control is shattered, they are on the run," he said. "That does not mean Shabaab is eliminated, the threat is still there. The war is soon going to another phase. There will not be territory controlled by Shabaab. They will melt down into society. The will be stand by side of road planting roadside bomb, using suicide bombers," he said.
Mr Mahmoud said the time is right to move Somalia from a "relief phase" to a full scale recovery effort. He said he had met Somali surgeons and policemen during his trip and called them to give up their holidays or take sabbaticals to work in Somalia. He cited the example of a 500-house property development under way in Mogadishu as a trailblazer for investment from the diaspora.
Mr Mahmoud said he hoped the British government would fund schemes to allow civil servants and other government employees take up temporary placements with his government. He also said charity staff working in Somalia should be forced to work for government ministries.
Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary, announced a scheme on Monday to send staff and training consultants to assist Somali MPs in carrying out their official functions.
"The Somalia problem is not just a Somali problem. It is a regional problem. It is an international problem," he said. "Remember when the Olympics were held here they were threatened by terrorism from Somalia. Somalia as it was is a threat to the world. We need to fix this problem – this is in the interests of the UK and the interests of the world.
"There is no country in the world that recovered from a civil war without the support of the world. We need help," he said.
A spokesman for Mo Farah said that the winner of 5,000 and 10,000 metre races had already demonstrated his willingness to help Somalia to recover from war by setting up the Mo Farah Foundation. It builds schools and provides health services in his homeland.
Source: The Telegraph