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Worse Than Darfur?
Issue 317
Front Page
Index
Headlines

Kidnappers Of German Aid Worker In Sanag Linked To Extremist Group

Aid Worker Given a Hero’s Welcome in Erigabo Following His Release

Swedish Explorer Lundin Petroleum Sets Eyes on Somaliland

Excitement as Kosovo independence confirmed for Sunday

Bush Arrives in Tanzania

In Kenya's peace process, devils in the details

Ethiopian Officials Blame Puntland Leader For Insecurity

Somalia opposition in Eritrea is powerless to reconcile

Separation Anxiety: Caring For Civil War Survivors In Somaliland’s Only Mental Hospital

Somaliland Mission: Taiwan-Africa Progressive Partnership

Policy makers and celebrities unite in call for action on human trafficking

Dr. Mohamed A Omar defended Somaliland at the Imperial College academic debate

Regional Affairs

Somaliland Arrests 5 Over German Kidnapping

Rights group: nearly 300 Somalis killed in January

Somali leader unhurt in mortar attack on residence

Editorial
Special Report

International News

The Mediterranean Union: Dividing the Middle East and North Africa

Hijack accused remanded for psychiatric assessment

Chavez Says Exxon Suit May Lead to Oil Cutoff to U.S.

FEATURES & COMMENTARY

Bush's African tour highlights U.S. long-term strategic interests

VALENTINE'S DAY - History and Islamic Perspective

The World's Oldest Existing Somali Society, The Anglo-Somali Society, discusses Somaliland

Indonesian city waits for real king to reveal himself

Hirsi Ali to EU Lawmakers: “I Don’t Want to Die”

Bring On The Giant Rats

China's influence stokes Kenya's hatred of SA

Worse Than Darfur?

Food for thought

Opinions

Why The UN & International NGO’s Hire Expatriates While Somaliland Professional Are Unemployed?

UN urged to protect Oromo refugees in Somalia

Exceptional Military Operation Freed Daniel Bronkal

Kulmiye High Command Should Rally Behind Dr. Ahmed Hussein's Candidature

Is There A Magic Number?

Do Our Over Oversize Cabinet Of Ministers Understand, what does it take to be a Minister?!!


Somalia's new prime minister talks about terrorism, civil war and a burgeoning humanitarian crisis.

Hussein at a press conference in Paris this week

By Jason McLure | Newsweek Web Exclusive

Worse than Darfur. That was the assessment two weeks ago of the United Nations' top refugee official in Somalia, who called the country Africa's worst humanitarian crisis. Somalia has been without a functioning central government for 17 years and has effectively splintered into three separate states: Somaliland in the north, Puntland in the center and chaotic southern Somalia. In December 2006, U.S.-supported Ethiopian troops invaded the country to oust an Islamist government that briefly controlled Mogadishu and the south, triggering a civil war. Islamist and clan-based militias have battled Ethiopian troops and supporters of the U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG). A small force of African Union peacekeepers has been powerless to halt the violence. The war has forced 1 million people from their homes.

The transitional government's Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, who took office three months ago, faces the challenges of reconciling Somalia's warring clans, keeping Islamic terrorists out and squelching a boom in piracy along the coast. And he must survive, of course—when he made the symbolically important step of moving the TFG back to Mogadishu last month, insurgents promptly shelled Somalia's presidential palace. Hussein, previously the chairman of Somalia's Red Crescent society, the Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross, recently spoke with NEWSWEEK's Jason McLure about the humanitarian crisis, his relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency and Somalia's tourism industry. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: A few U.N. officials have said that Somalia is Africa's worst humanitarian crisis. Is it really that bad?
Nur Hassan Hussein:
I would not say the worst, but definitely we have to admit that up to a certain degree there is a humanitarian crisis, which cannot be denied. You can imagine that if the security situation is so bad, the access for humanitarian operations is hampered. But right now we are witnessing a visible improvement. We will try our best so that the relief operations intended to reach the vulnerable people are not hampered.

What kind of support has the United States offered your government? How much direct assistance has the transitional federal government received from the United States?
First of all, the main support is the political support.

Isn't the United States the largest financial supporter of the TFG?
I think the United States plays the leading role.

How important is your relationship with the Ethiopian government? The TFG came back to Somalia with the help of Ethiopian troops, but is the presence of Ethiopian troops there harmful to the legitimacy of your government?
Not at all, not at all. The Ethiopian government came to our aid at a moment when this aid was badly needed. Since then it has continued to support us in relation to the security restoration.

The United States views Somalia as part of its international war against terrorism. How much of the current violence there now is related to international terror groups, and how much is simply clans or factions fighting for power?
For some time Somalia was without government and you can imagine that in this environment or vacuum, without enforcement, there is a possibility to see so many things. There was a conception that the deteriorating situation would allow terrorists to find a haven in Somalia.

So most of the opposition groups you can do business with. Only a few are related to international terrorism?
Yes, yes. I think the majority of the opposition are either opposition because they don't see the government delivering or performing well. So they want some things changed. Others are not included in the power-sharing, so they would like to be in the picture. The ownership of the government belongs to the community, the Somali people.

Terrorism, then, is just a small element in the opposition then?
I see it like that, currently.

How many U.S. troops are in Somalia right now?
I don't think that we have U.S. troops inside Somalia now. Sometimes some teachers may come.

Is the CIA present and supportive in Somalia?
It's supportive, yes. The United States of America is supporting us in different fields. But the presence of the CIA, the presence of troops, is not a big issue. We like that they are here. But right now they don't have a permanent military presence. They come in and out.

The United States says some of the people responsible for the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam are still in Somalia right now. Why are they free, and what will it take to capture them?
I cannot confirm really that they are in Somalia right now. Definitely we are still continuing to fight against the insurgents, against any sort of terrorism. When we reach what we call a complete victory, including reconciliation, I think then we can identify who is here, who is there, who is responsible and so on.

How many U.S. troops are in Somalia right now?
I don't think that we have U.S. troops inside Somalia now. Sometimes some teachers may come.

Is the CIA present and supportive in Somalia?
It's supportive, yes. The United States of America is supporting us in different fields. But the presence of the CIA, the presence of troops, is not a big issue. We like that they are here. But right now they don't have a permanent military presence. They come in and out.

The United States says some of the people responsible for the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam are still in Somalia right now. Why are they free, and what will it take to capture them?
I cannot confirm really that they are in Somalia right now. Definitely we are still continuing to fight against the insurgents, against any sort of terrorism. When we reach what we call a complete victory, including reconciliation, I think then we can identify who is here, who is there, who is responsible and so on.

Under your predecessor, Ali Mohammed Gedi, the TFG arrested the head of the United Nations World Food Program in Somalia. At the time there was a suspicion that the U.N. chief was arrested because the World Food Program was distributing food in some areas that supported the opposition.
I'm coming from the humanitarian field. And definitely what we believe is that when it comes to the humanitarian operations, the vulnerable people are vulnerable, regardless of their political beliefs, regardless of their religion, regardless of the color, regardless of the clan they belong to. As a humanitarian, I need to support both sides.

Piracy has been a continuing problem and one that has grown worse last year. What needs to be done about it?
Piracy is very much a threat to humanitarian operations. It is the major factor making the crisis worse. Each ransom paid for a ship [seized] by pirates makes the situation worse. So we urge the whole international community to look at this. It needs to be addressed at the international level, [including] adequate support to the Somali government right now to fight piracy.

I understand that you would like the United Nations to send peacekeepers to Somalia. What did they say needs to be done before they will send peacekeepers?
They sent an assessment team already. I think what they identified was that there is a need for U.N. peacekeeping troops.

Does the U.N. have the political will to send troops? When you talk to Americans about Somalia, what they know is the story of "Black Hawk Down."
Yes, but I think that picture is now changing. If yesterday Somalia was seen as such, today I think it is being seen in a different way. And these changes I think will also bring about the possibility to engage troops from Europe, America and Arab [countries].

Southern Somalia has some nice beaches. How long will it be until we see foreign tourists visiting them?
That is the best question you've asked [laughs]. When I was forming the cabinet, I was asking myself whether a ministry of tourism is needed or not. But there is a long way to go. We are focusing on security today. But tomorrow we will have a ministry for tourism.

Some people say Somalia is the third front in the war on terrorism for the United States, after Iraq and Afghanistan. How do you react to that?
My reaction would not be far from that. I don't know whether [we'd be] fourth or fifth or whatever, but one of the fronts definitely. Not because of the current presence of terrorism but because we have the [possibility] of terrorism. I think the best weapon to combat that is reconciliation. I believe that.

Picture: Franck Fife / AFP-Getty Images

Source: Newsweek

 


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