In wake of president’s oathYemen asks Arab League to support Somalia [Archives:2004/787/Local News]

November 4 2004

By Peter Willems
Yemen Times Staff

The Yemeni government asked the Arab League last week to create an Arab fund that would assist Somalia to rebuild after its 13-year civil war.
The request came two weeks after Somalia's new president Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed took the oath of office in Nairobi, Kenya. Yusuf is expected to unite numerous clans that have been fighting for power since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991 and stabilize the war-torn country.
Yemen has shown support of Yusuf to end the fighting. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was the one Arab leader that attended the inauguration in Nairobi and called on international assistance to help the new president bring peace to Somalia.
“In the past, Yemen has repeatedly asked the Arab League to help a government in Somalia establish peace, create a democratic government and rebuild the country,” Ahmed Al-Basha, Head of the African Department at Yemen's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Yemen Times. “The call for assistance is justified and when the new government is formed, it should be supported by the Arab League.”
The new Somali president plans to appoint a new prime minister and form a cabinet in the coming weeks, and the new government will move to Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, in the near future.
Somalia will require substantial support from other countries. According to The World Bank, 43 per cent of the population lives in extreme poverty, living on $1 a day.
Due to fighting, famine and disease, as many as one million Somalis have died during the civil war, and the country's infrastructure, education and healthcare have been left in shambles. Only 17 per cent of the children are enrolled in primary school, and with limited healthcare, life expectancy is 47 years.
“The political settlement will need support from Arab countries and the international community as well,” said Al-Basha.
Yusuf may face obstacles to try and unify the country. Although most tribal leaders support the selection of Yusuf as president, some in Mogadishu do not recognize him as the nation's leader. Mogadishu is divided between a large number of clans, and roughly 60,000 armed militiamen are based in the capital.
Last Saturday, fighting erupted between Puntland and Somaliland that killed over 100 people. Somaliland, a northern territory that claimed independence during the civil war and has not supported the election, has fought with Puntland, another breakaway region, for years over land disputes.
Other attempts to stabilize the country during the civil war have failed. After Abdulkassim Sala Hassan was appointed president at a conference held in Djibouti in 2000, he controlled only a small part of the capital and limited areas in south Somalia.
Last week, Yusuf asked the African Union (AU) to send 20,000 peacekeeping troops to Somalia to help disarm the militias and stabilize the country during the rebuilding process. It is said that the AU will accept the request.
It is estimated that around 430,000 Somalis live outside of their homeland. Yemen is host to at least 47,000 Somali refugees, the largest Somali population in the Middle East.