From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Thu Feb 26 2009 - 06:18:11 EST
Asharq Al-Awsat Talks to Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed
By Michel Abu Najm
Djibouti, Asharq Al-Awsat- Following his meeting with French Foreign
Minister Bernard Kouchner in Djibouti, the new Somali President, Sheikh
Sharif Sheikh Ahmad, called on the Arab countries, particularly the Gulf
States, to support his government. In an exclusive interview with Asharq
Al-Awsat, the Somali president appeared optimistic that the chronic problems
facing his country, which has been mired in civil war since 1991, will be
The following is the full text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What has changed in your country since your election as
president of the Republic of Somalia?
[Ahmad]What Somalia witnessed over the past few years was very painful.
However, the efforts to bring about accord and peace have recently
succeeded. This was manifest in the election of a new president and the
appointment of a prime minister and a new government. This government has
received the confidence of the parliament, the Somali people, as well as the
international community. I anticipate that the international community,
particularly the Arab countries, will take a strong, practical stand in our
support because it will greatly help render the government's endeavors
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Have you contacted the Arab and Gulf states; what are you
practically asking for?
[Ahmad] Intensive contacts are under way with the Arab countries,
particularly the Gulf States. All of these countries have given their
blessings to the steps we have taken and have expressed readiness to stand
by us and by the Somali people.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] When will you go back to Mogadishu?
[Ahmad] I will go back very soon, God willing.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] We are told that that you are going back on Tuesday, is
[Ahmad] I will go back very soon.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you have a plan for normalizing the situation in
Somalia as acts of violence and piracy continue to be launched from the
[Ahmad] We have started taking bold steps to address this problem. We have
set up committees to be in charge of security in the capital. Calm is
returning to Mogadishu's neighborhoods and to many other parts of the
country. The government's plan is to give the security issue absolute
priority and provide humanitarian aid to the needy and to those affected by
both wars and drought. In tandem with these steps, we want the government's
work to be transparent, and to keep in contact with the other parties in
Somalia and with the outside world, and to focus on fostering our relations
with the Arab world.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How can you move on in Somalia as there is no central
administration or state, and there is no security, and government authority
is absent in large parts of the country?
[Ahmad] The problems of the absence of administration and the collapse of
the state will be solved by our efforts. The new government contains
competent cadres. I believe these cadres will push for restructuring the
state and rebuilding its institutions. In addition, we will have in the
government a security team that will be tasked with establishing peace in
the country. The government has begun working along the lines I have
mentioned. As for the Somali parties that did not approve of the government
formation, our response is that we will be open to dialogue. Efforts and
mediation attempts are being made by Somali religious scholars, tribal
chiefs, notables, and by the religious scholars of the Islamic world. All
these efforts seek to achieve the sole goal of persuading the Somali parties
to lay down their arms and opt for negotiation and conviction.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Much is said that the Al-Qaeda organization has
established bases in Somali, what is the truth about this issue?
[Ahmad] I cannot firmly confirm that Al-Qaeda exists in Somalia despite the
general conviction that does. What I know is that the jihadist ideology has
spread in the country. We do not reject this ideology, but we maintain that
it must be disciplined by the Islamic Shariaa tenets.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The other problem Somalia is facing is the phenomenon of
acts of piracy and the failure so far of the international measures, which
have been in force in the past few months, to put an end to the growing acts
of piracy. What are you going to do in this respect?
[Ahmad] The acts of piracy are a result of the absence of security in
Somalia. This problem can be solved by re-establishing security and forming
a Somali naval force capable of combating this phenomenon.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] With the support of the African Union you seek to form a
10,000-stong security force. How will you achieve this goal and how will you
be able to recruit this large number?
[Ahmad] This force which we are seeking to form will be the nucleus of the
Somali security forces that will impose security and stability. We will form
this force from selected elements from the existing police force and from
some elements of the resistance. Every Somali citizen who is prepared to
work for his country and do his duty will be able to join this force.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] France has expressed preparedness to play a part in
training the Somali security forces provided the training will take place in
Djiboutian territory? [Ahmad] This is exactly what we need: Rehabilitation
and training. The French foreign minister has promised us to do all he can
to help Somalia and he has urged the EU countries to do their part to help
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