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We will forever be grateful, says Somalia President

Sunday, October 07, 2012
By Abdikadir Sugow

The people of Somalia will forever be grateful to Kenya for helping them liberate Kismayu and other towns in the south of the war-torn country.

This is the passionate message to Kenyans from Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

“The Somalia government is truly grateful to Kenya for the contribution it has made to peace and stability in Somalia since 1991 up to recently when the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), the African Union Mission to Somalia (Amisom) contingent and our national army liberated Kismayu,” the Somalia president says.

Speaking to The Standard On Sunday through his government’s Ambassador to Kenya Mohamed Ali Nur, President Mohamud said Somalia had reached “the lowest of the lowest,” but was confident that with Kenya’s and the international community’s support, the country is on track to recovery.

He appreciated KDF for helping the Somalia national army break Al-Shabaab and expressed confidence the few towns remaining under the influence of the fleeing AlShabaab would also be liberated soon.

“The KDF soldiers shed their blood in helping us liberate Somalia and we will never forget that,” he said. He also thanked the other Amisom supported countries of Uganda, Burundi, and Djibouti for sending their sons and daughters, some of who lost their lives in the war effort to bring back law and order to Somalia.

Civil war

Nur recalled that since 1991 when former President Mohamed Siad Barre’s government collapsed, Kenyans living close to the border had welcomed Somalis running away from the civil war and received them in their homes even before Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps were built.

“We will never forget such gestures and the charity of Kenyans when they received our people with open arms and open hearts,” Nur says.

As the Somalia President is busy preparing to appoint a new Prime Minister and forward his name to Parliament for approval, he is also scorching rumours that the neighbouring Kenya will have leeway to install local temporary administration under the watch of KDF troops.

Mohamud is further assuring that the seaport city of Kismayu liberated from the Al Shabaab militia by KDF and the Amisom contingent will soon have an inclusive local administration. He says the Mogadishu-based government will widely consult with stakeholders, particularly the council of elders in Kismayu before naming an interim administration.

The new Kismayu administration would be inclusive and local council of elders would be involved to come-up with a broad-based initiative.

Kenya hosts more than 500,000 refugees from Somalia in the refugee camps, and Nur says his government appreciates the care.

He recalled talks, which helped establish peace through elders meetings in Mbagathi that saw the election of the late President Abdulahi Yusuf and 275 Members of Parliament, resulting in the creation of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in 2004 until August this year, when President Mohamud was elected. He says his government has appealed to the international community, donors and United Nations agencies to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees, especially those who fled Kismayu inside Somalia so that they don’t come to Kenya.

The impact of refugee influx and the sending of Kenyan forces into Somalia have severely strained the country’s resources.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York last week as Kismayu was being liberated, President Kibaki appealed to the UN and the international community to help in the resettlement of refugees back to Somalia, once stability is restored.

Nur says the next move is to establish interim administrations in the liberated areas before they can organise to hold elections and vote independently after law and order is established for the reconstruction programme to start.

But efforts to set up an administration in Kismayu could face a greater challenge than the military operation to control it. Since 1991, Barre’s military commanders, warlords, and Islamic and clan militias have fought to control the port with varying degrees of success.

Clan interests

Al Shabaab in Kismayu managed clan interests among more powerful Darod (Marehan and Ogaden), Harti (Majerteen, Warsengeli, and Dhulbahante) and Hawiye (Hawaadle and Sheikhal) clans, and the less powerful Bantu and Dir clans.

The Somali government must perform a delicate balancing act to fill the power vacuum successfully amid serious clan tensions. It appears that some elements of the former TFG in co-operation with Igad, AU and UN authorities want to re-unify the regions of lower and middle Juba and Gedo under a renewed Jubaland administration (it also has been referred to as Azania State).

At a conference in June held in Karen, Nairobi, representatives from different groups in Kismayu discussed power-sharing among in the proposed Jubaland state.

Representatives included the then TFG deputy interior minister Abdi Ali Hassan, Gen Abdullahi Sheikh Ismail “Fartaag” of Gedo Defense Forces (Hirale’s forces), much touted Jubaland/Azania president Mohamed Abdi Mohamad alias “Ghandhi”, Sheikh Mohamed Yusuf Mohamud alias “Aw-Libaax” of Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamaa and Maalim Mohamed Ibrahim of Ras Kamboni Brigade.

Though this initiative has not been approved by the Somali parliament, it raises concerns in its exclusion of some regional clans and past controversial attempts to establish clan-based governments in meetings held outside Somalia and with dubious representatives from the involved clans.

Kenya sees Jubaland as a “buffer zone” against violent extremism in setting up the new administration. Al Shabaab’s heavy taxation and forced recruitment in Kismayu were unpopular, but communities would not welcome leaders consumed by their own personal interests.

The port in the Somali government’s backyard in Mogadishu has long been plagued by corruption, which further points to the need of a credible authority in Kismayu and more broadly in Jubaland.

Kismayu was Al Shabaab’s last major stronghold on account of the revenue that the group has been generating through exporting charcoal and levying taxes on imported goods. Tonnes of charcoal remain abandoned at the port, after the militia fled from the might of the allied forces.

Businesses in Kismayu are re-opening and the locals’ daily routine is slowly returning to normal. KDF is in control of the port, police station, port city factory, former state house and the two airports.

The Somali government is also preparing mediations between the city’s stakeholders in order to establish an inclusive local administration. President Mohamud has been getting regular briefings on the situation on the ground, in Kenya and from Amisom and is satisfied with the progress so far.

The Government also appreciates the support being provided by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) to jointly come-up with a suitable framework to build a local administration.

Nur said the talks between all stakeholders in regard to Kismayu stability that were held in Karen, Nairobi, were productive, adding the guidelines that were crafted will be of useful in setting-up administration.

He said a major conference will be held in Somalia to come up with best leadership structure.

Nur says he just came back from Somalia and there is already a big change. Somalis from the Diaspora are returning home and engaging in construction of big hotels, offices and residential buildings. There has been a great improvement in security and the biggest indicator of the closer links to Kenya and the strengthening of the bonds between the two countries is that a year ago there were only three flights a week from Nairobi to Mogadishu. Today there are three flights a day booked in advance.

“We can see light at the end of the tunnel now. We are very optimistic. We want to feed ourselves soon. We have the longest coastline in Africa and two big rivers. We used to export fruits and seafood to Europe and other African countries. As soon as peace is restored, we want the people to go back and help in reconstruction and recovery,” says Nur.

The people of Somalia and their government’s optimism does not seem misplaced, thanks to Kenya’s support.


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