Ku Aqriso Af-Soomaali
By Francisco Madeira
Friday, July 01, 2016
Fifty-six years ago today, the great nation of Somalia gained its independence from colonial rule. It was freedom well-earned after the country’s forefathers gallantly wrestled power from foreign occupiers and hoisted the white and blue flag for the first time to signify liberation.
The struggle ushered in self-rule and a hope for a brighter future. Unfortunately, in 1991, the country plunged into a protracted civil war and collapse of law and order ensued, betraying the dreams and aspirations the freedom fighters sacrificed their lives for, and sending millions of Somalis into neighbouring states and beyond as refugees.
In 2007, however, Somalia received a new lease of life when the African Union deployed its first group of peace enforcers to dislodge Al-Shabaab terrorists who had committed gross human rights violations on innocent civilians both in Somalia and in neighbouring countries.
Today, as the rest of the world joins Somalis in celebrating the country’s 56th independence anniversary, I can say with confidence, that the objective of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to disrupt, degrade and destroy Al-Shabaab and stabilise the country, is largely being achieved.
AMISOM has managed to push Al-Shabaab from 80 percent of the country including the key towns in Somalia. This has been done through three major military operations namely; Operation Eagle, Operation Indian Ocean and Operation Jubba Corridor. The objectives of these operations were three-pronged: to liberate the towns, disrupt the terrorists’ supply routes and prevent them from collecting illegal taxes from the population.
Al-Shabaab has been pushed to a small area in southern Somalia and AMISOM will launch a final push to annihilate the militants and allow the population to go about their lives freely, securely and enjoy, in confidence, the fruits of independence deservedly earned 56 years ago.
Our military successes have forced Al-Shabaab to change its modus operandi and engage in asymmetric warfare, indiscriminately targeting civilians, public places, government installations and businesses in heinous attacks calculated to cause maximum destruction and reap maximum publicity. To face this new challenge, AMISOM is working closely with Somali National security forces to counter the enemy’s sheer violence and stop the loss of life.
Somalia’s Rebuilding Has Begun
It is not just on the military front that we are working. AMISOM is supporting and encouraging the unfolding political process and the country's efforts towards an inclusive dialogue and reconciliation. It is prioritising stabilisation and getting government institutions back on their feet to be able to be present and perform their government functions throughout Somalia.
Today, a police force comprising more than 5,000 men and women recruited, trained, mentored and equipped with the support of AMISOM, is in place. The Somali National Army is also being strengthened and has begun taking over some of the security responsibilities from AMISOM.
Mogadishu, which was formerly under the control of Al-Shabaab until AMISOM stepped in, is now a bustling city full of life. Last November, the US-based consultancy, Demographia, which bases its annual Demographic World Urban Areas ranking on the United Nations’ 2010-20 world population projections, ranked Mogadishu the second fastest growing city in the world.
According to Demographia, Mogadishu, with a population of 2.1 million, was growing at a rate of 6.9 percent. It attributed the growth to its improving security situation and positive economic prospects, thanks to the return of Somalis living the diaspora. All this is a by-product of AMISOM’s endeavours to bring peace and security to the country.
At the same time, other critical government institutions are taking shape and impacting positively the lives of the Somali population. The revenue collection department has been established and has begun collecting taxes; the Central Bank is putting in place fiscal and monetary measures to regulate the economy and the immigration department is visibly registering improvement in its services. The World Bank has appointed a country representative for Somalia, while the International Monetary Fund last year reviewed the country’s economy for the first time in 25 years. As a result, it is not surprising that the Somali economy is growing at a rate above 5 percent, driven by the booming construction industry and the strong services sector.
However, it is important to note that the achievements made so far can come to naught if we do not help Somalia go through the delicate political transition to build a strong nation based on sanctity of life, respect for human rights, mutual acceptance, tolerance, inclusion, and democratic governance.
To this end, AMISOM has proactively supported the legislative and executive arms of government in their effort to establish a federal system as envisaged under the country’s constitution.
In this context, the future Federal states emanating from the Interim South West Administration, Interim Jubba Administration, Galmudug Interim Administration and Puntland have so far been established. Discussions are still ongoing on the establishment of Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle state and how to administer Mogadishu. The interim administrations have already established regional assemblies and cabinets as platforms for consultation and debate on issues of interest to the country and the regions and for the provision of services to the population.
Recently, during the National Leadership Forum (NLF) meeting held in Baidoa, the country’s top leadership ironed out sticking points on the electoral process. The NLF agreed to hold parliamentary and presidential elections before the end of the year. This is an additional step forward in the path of national reconciliation and enhanced inclusiveness.
Apart from endorsing the elections calendar, the meeting also agreed on the list of 135 elders who will pick the electoral colleges to elect the 275 members of parliament. The leaders also approved the establishment of technical teams, both at the federal and state-level, that will prepare the elections and ensure the timelines set are met.
This is remarkable progress and additional step forward in the path of national reconciliation and enhanced democratic inclusiveness.
This is therefore, a clear demonstration that despite the unwarranted killings and destructions by Al-Shabaab despite the continued challenges the country is still facing, the balance remains positive: Somalia is on the path to recovery.
This is not the time for despondency. It is the time for steadfastness and continued resolve to destroy Al-Shabaab, to unite and support Somalia and make it a great nation again.
Let us all join hands in wishing Somalia a happy 56th Independence anniversary. Thank you.
Francisco Madeira is the African Union Special Representative for Somalia and the head of the African Union Mission in Somalia