President Saleh attends inauguration of new Somali leader [Archives:2004/782/Front Page]

October 18 2004

By Peter Willems
Yemen Times Staff

President Ali Abdullah Saleh attended the ceremony of the new Somali president taking the oath of office last week in Nairobi, Kenya, and called on the international community to help bring stability to the war-torn country.
“We have strong brotherly and historical ties with Somalia and by attending this occasion, we affirm our stance towards the Somali people to keep their security, independence and unity,” said Saleh in the Kenyan capital where Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was sworn in last Thursday.
“We call on the international community and Arab states to help the Somali government to rebuild Somalia to enable it to take its role in the Horn of Africa for the sake of comprehensive peace in the region,” said Saleh.
Yemen's president also asked the United States, the European Union and other donor countries to provide the necessary financial support to rebuild Somalia which has been in a civil war for the last 13 years.
“We call on the United States, the European Union and all other donors to offer prompt help to Somalia so that it can restore stability and security,” Saleh said.
On October 10th, a newly formed interim parliament of 275 representatives elected Ahmed as Somalia's president for a five-year term. The election came after a two-year peace process that was carried out in Kenya led by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development facilitation committee. Ahmed was chosen out of 28 candidates after three voting sessions, and representatives from numerous clans in Somalia are included in the parliament.
Ahmed was once the leader of Puntland, a region that claimed independence and was backed by neighboring Ethiopia. In the sixties, he was a colonel in the Somali army but was jailed by the country's former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre for not being involved in a coup d'etat in 1969. Ahmed led a rebellion against Barre in the eighties.
“It's a wonderful day for Somalia, the region and the international community,” Ahmed said during his inauguration. “This is a victory for Africa.”
Somalia's new president will face challenges ahead. Fighting between warring factions has continued since Barre's regime was toppled in 1991. Due to fighting, famine and disease, as many as one million Somalis have died during the civil war, and around two million have fled the country. The country's infrastructure, education and healthcare have been left in tatters. Mogadishu, the capital, remains divided between tribal leaders with an estimated 60,000 armed men still roaming the streets.
Other attempts to stabilize the country have failed. When Abdulkassim Sala Hassan was appointed president at a conference held in Djibouti in 2000, he was only able to control a small part of the capital and areas in the south of the country. The central government is in need of a national army and police force.
“It is difficult to say that the new president will pull the country together,” said a foreign diplomat. “Even though it has failed in the past, the country may be ready to do its best to establish peace.”
To help disarm the militias and stabilize the country, Ahmed has asked the international community to send in troops.
“International forces are required to participate in the pacification of the country and train the security apparatus of the state,” said Ahmed. “This is essential.”
But it might be difficult to persuade countries or organizations to offer a peacekeeping force. The African Union is trying to find funding to be able to send around 5,000 soldiers to Sudan to help stabilize the Darfur region. The United States and the United Nations may be reluctant to offer troops. While soldiers were stationed in Somalia to support international aid during a famine in 1993, 17 US troops and hundreds of Somalis were killed in Mogadishu during a raid that led to the withdrawal of US and UN forces.
The first step by the new president will be to appoint a new prime minister and put together a cabinet before entering Somalia from Kenya. Some believe that Ahmed will choose someone from one of the largest clans in Mogadishu as the prime minister to gain more support.
Somaliland, a northern territory that became independent 13 years ago and refused to participate in the peace process, has not supported the election.
“We remind all concerned that the government and the president elected in Kenya is for Somalia and not Somaliland,” said Abdillahi Mohamed Du'ale, the Information Minister of Somaliland. “The people of Somaliland and its government are ready to confront any enemy that tries to violate its borders and territory with force.”
Clashes have erupted in the last month between Somaliland and Puntland over Sool and Sanaag, two areas along the border.
The newly elected president stressed that cooperation is essential to stabilize the country. “I have no grudge against anybody, but I will seek their cooperation,” said Ahmed. “They should work with me so that we help the Somali people to get out of the fiasco and quagmire that they are in.”
Hussein Aideed, Chairman of the Somali United Congress faction, urged that the key to uniting the country is to make sure each clan is represented equally in the new government.
“[President Ahmed] can easily do this by making each and every Somali clan feel well and democratically represented in the government,” said Aideed. “But if major clans feel left out, he will have to work very hard to make the Somali people trust his leadership.”
Aideed also said that if intense clashes erupt again under the newly formed government, the international community would not be willing to support another peace process in the future.