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Sub Saharan Informer Interview with Somali Prime Minister
After the African Union’s 10th Ordinary Summit here in Addis Ababa, the Sub-Saharan Informer’s Faysal Abdikerim (Gabanow) sat down with the Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government of the Republic of Somalia, Nur Hassan Hussein, and asked him about the summit’s outcomes on Somali issue, his meetings with African heads of state and the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and his government’s move to the capital Mogadishu. Below are excerpts.
SSI: You participated in the 10th African Union Summit held here. What came out of the assembly regarding Somalia?
Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein: Some of the resolutions that came out of the Summit, touching on Somalia, were constructive and helpful for us, as the discussion on Somalia by the members focused on peace and the security, reconciliation efforts, the humanitarian situation, and of course, the reconstruction of the nation, the restoration of law and order and stability. And these discussions were so fruitful and timely. In the security sector for example, the members stressed the necessity to increase the magnitude of the current African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to its previous scheduled and planned capacity of 8000 peacekeepers. Some of the countries that attended the session have promised to live up to their initial pledges and deploy their respective troops swiftly.
SSI: During the Summit you met with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon. What have you discussed with him?
Prime Minister Hussein: Really, we had bilateral meetings with different African heads of state and with other nations and organizations that also participated in the summit as observers, like members in the European Union. Our meeting with the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, concentrated on the way forward to restore peace in Somalia, on the way to help Somalis emerge from the crisis that prevails in the country, and on the United Nations’ role to lead such initiatives. We also considered how the United Nations could support us in the security area, the reinforcement of the ongoing reconciliation efforts, including the deployment of UN peacekeepers. He [Ban Ki-moon] promised that he would do more in this regard. Notably, a technical team and a fact finding mission [of the United Nations] have visited Somalia to evaluate the possibility of UN peacekeepers deployment into Somalia, and they have seen the perception of the Somali people, and the urgent need of peacekeepers to restore peace and stability. The Secretary General assured us that he would try his best and discuss the issue with the concerning body [Security Council].
SSI: You also met with the Nigerian president, whose country was among the nations that pledged peacekeepers for Somalia last year, the Ugandan President, whose troops are in Somalia as peacekeepers, and with the Djiboutian president, who harbors some of your opponents in his country. What were your discussions about?
Prime Minister Hussein: Most of our discussions were on peace and stability restoration, revitalization and strengthening the reconciliation process, which the new government [Nur’s government] had announced to undertake - a broad-based reconciliation process, in which we inform the opposition that doors are open for them and that we are ready to negotiate with them. We recognize the opposition, as we said before, as Somali people who have their own rights in the country, and have duties and tasks in the peace, development and the welfare of their nation. The government and the opposition have equal rights in the country; we have to work for the interest, integrity and development of our country, restore peace and stability, sort out our differences peacefully, and renounce what divides our people.
SSI: Recently, your government moved to the capital Mogadishu, which was your first trip to Mogadishu since you took office. The insecurity escalated upon your arrival, mortars were fired at the national Palace and the international airport. What could this mean about your arrival?
Prime Minister Hussein: Somalia has many problems to deal with. It is a country that has been chaotic for more than 17 years, destroyed, disintegrated, and its people suffered enormously. The impact of all these problems is still challenging. It [the bombing] only indicated the insecurity problems in Mogadishu. Nevertheless, I am very happy that our government was warmly received in Mogadishu. The mortar shells were part of that welcome [laughing], and we neither took it as serious nor reacted to fire back. We mean that those who are firing the mortars are also Somalis but they are very few, as most of the people want peace and the good. So, we have to tolerate the few that continue the violence, until we make the people understand our message of an open reconciliation process, in which the grassroots are asked to reconcile past conflicts, and to expand the reconciliation to the village level, and to negotiate with the opposition, wherever they are, as we share the same country and have the same duties. Possibly, the opposition may protest the performance of the government or its structure, so we have to discuss what they disapprove to realize together the interest of the Somali people.
SSI: The International Community and the Somali people welcomed your announcement of dialogue with the opposition, but the Asmara group says they won’t talk to the government since the Ethiopian troops are in the country. How do you think you could accomodate both demands?
Prime Minister Hussein: Our dire need and current demand for security and stabilization has extended the presence of the Ethiopian forces in Somalia. If we negotiate and agree on their departure, they will withdraw. But before that we have to meet, discuss, solve our differences and overcome the insecurity challenges. If we say Ethiopians should withdraw, it is not a matter of concern, but we have to initially bridge the gap and create the prospect to assume the job they are doing, in order not to create a security vacuum.
SSI: The US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, briefly visited Somaliland. Were you aware of that trip, as Frazer also participated in the African Union Summit?
Prime Minister Hussein: We are delighted over Jendayi’s visit to Somaliland, as we are happy with the peace and development that Somaliland has achieved. We really hail them on that, because, if conflict erupts in a Somali territory, it will inevitably affect the others. Development and stability are also like that. However, it is to be noted that the unity, sovereignty, and the independence of Somalia is inviolable, and we urge everybody to respect these fundamental issues.
Source: Sub Saharan Informer (Ethiopia)