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'The future of Somalia is at stake' -The Telegraph

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'The future of Somalia is at stake', says president


Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the president of Somalia tells Zoe Flood that although things are getting better in his country, there is a huge amount at stake.


He darts through the city in a convoy of armoured vehicles, teams of bodyguards bristling with weapons and alert for suicide bombers. The war ravaged streets of Mogadishu have been cleared for him to pass safely. It is too dangerous for him to leave his home without days of planning.


And yet Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the president of Somalia, will arrive in London this week to tell David Cameron that things are getting better.




Now we’re moving from one stage to another,” he told The Sunday Telegraph in an interview, sitting in dappled sunlight outside his official residence. “All our plans are based on moving the country from emergency to recovery, and from recovery to development and reconstruction.”


Mr Hassan, a former academic and the country’s first president elected on home soil in decades, has found a vital ally in David Cameron, with whom he will on Tuesday co-host an international conference in London to boost support for his country.


When I was elected I was attacked within two days, and there were suicide bombers in every corner of my hotel. There are threats against me all the time — I receive a lot of alerts that an attack on me is imminent,” he said. But he promises that the situation is improving – and that it is essential not just for Somalia that it does.


“There is a huge amount at stake in Somalia: the future of this country, the security of the region, the removal of the piracy stranglehold,” he said. “David Cameron is investing political capital in supporting Somalia. People may ask if it matters at this time, but he understands that the cost of Somali insecurity to global business – at a time when Europe is trying to recover from the recession – is too much to bear. The threat to national security from home-grown extremists is also too much to risk.”




Britain’s support for Somalia has been particularly visible in the lead-up to the conference. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, last month opened Britain’s new embassy in Mogadishu, 22 years after diplomats fled chaotic fighting in the capital.


The British ambassador to Somalia, Matt Baugh, who will nonetheless continue to spend most of his time in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, told The Sunday Telegraph that “real security gains” were among the reasons that Britain has formally returned to the country.


The Somali government is looking to Britain to help convey the country’s needs and priorities to the world. Mr Hassan, who works 20 hour-days and looks confused when asked how he relaxes, promises that they will be presenting “very clear plans” including on security sector and judiciary reform, as well as on the management of public finances. In return they are hoping for funding, technical advice and diplomatic support, from Britain and others.


Britain has its own priorities in Somalia, which include tackling conflict and countering terrorism and piracy. To this effect, it is expected that Britain will pledge tens of millions to build up Somali security forces – forces that Britain already helps to train.


Somalia is used to needing all the help it can get. One of the world’s most dangerous countries, the Horn of Africa nation is known for war, pirates and famine rather than its miles of pristine coastline and centuries-old literary tradition. Since the government’s collapse in 1991, it has been shattered by conflict and most recently a violent insurgency by al-Qaeda-linked militants.




But a gruelling military operation by African Union and Somali troops has pushed al-Shabaab – which the president describes as having a “proven” link to British extremism – out of the capital, driving up hopes for the future.


Mogadishu is without doubt undergoing a massive transformation. The city streets, largely deserted just over a year ago, bustle with hawkers selling cigarettes, girls walking home from school and men gathered for coffee.




Bombed-out ruins are being rebuilt and opened as hotels, shops and restaurants. Residents of the city recall that not long ago mortar shells fired by al-Shabaab fell into the gardens of the presidential compound Villa Somalia, where Mr Hassan now lives.


Last week he made a rare visit to speak to the people he leads – travelling a few minutes from Villa Somalia to visit a fish factory and speak with the workers.


During a short stay at the facility, he managed to exchange a few words with several men packing fish, while his unsmiling bodyguards formed a permanent barrier around him. At home, security around the president is just as fierce: to get into the official residence requires passing through at least six checkpoints, several involving body searches and fierce questioning.


These rings of steel around Somalia’s mild-mannered and erudite president are understandable. Al-Shabaab has carried out a deadly campaign of suicide bombings and targeted assassinations since it declared its withdrawal from Mogadishu in August 2011. Last week the capital was under lockdown for some 72 hours, with major roads closed and military out in force while a major operation hunted down al-Shabaab leaders. Three weeks earlier a coordinated attack on the capital’s courthouse, claimed by al-Shabaab, left at least 19 dead.

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“We do not rule out that such acts can happen,” says Mr Hassan. “They happen in Kabul, Baghdad, Mogadishu, many parts of the world. It’s a real threat but one we’re living with and working on to eliminate.”


The president is frank about the links between militant ideology in Somalia and terror threats in the wider world.


“The al-Shabaab ideology is an imported ideology, it has been brought by foreign fighters who came here or Somalis who went outside and came back. This ideology of extremism is a virus, it goes everywhere.


“Many of those young boys who became suicide bombers, they came from the West. They went there while they very young, or even they were born there. Some of them are of Somali origin, some of them are not Somali. They took the virus while they were there in London, in Washington, in Toronto, in Rome.”


For a man recently named by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people, Mr Hassan cuts an unlikely figure. He is far from presidential – without the arrogance of power, even if his entourage puts on a good show. Warm and welcoming, the 57-year-old president struggles with the levels of interest in his personal life, acknowledging that his life “has become a public domain”.


He smiles easily, a sincere and sometimes mischievous grin, but looks a little uncomfortable when everyone in the room jumps to their feet as he enters.



Mr Hassan’s formal political career began only two years ago, and his time in public office in August last year. Unlike many now at the top of Somalia’s politics, he stayed in the country throughout the conflict, working as an academic and civil society activist. He turned to politics after years of frustration trying to shift the mindset of Somalia’s politicians.


“I was well paid, I can say I was one of the highest paid people inside Somalia,” he said, referring to his roles as a university dean and deputy director of a research institute. “But I decided to drop everything and stand for politics. I decided that I would change myself so that then I can pursue the change I want to see in Somalia.”


The election by MPs of Mr Hassan - the country remains too unstable for a full election - was welcomed both at home and internationally as marking a turning point for Somalia. But the country remains some distance from being able to hold a nationwide poll.


While the government may now be in control of Mogadishu and other key cities, bolstered by military support including from its neighbours Kenya and Ethiopia, al-Shabaab still holds sway over large swathes of the country.


And ongoing disputes with semi-autonomous regions over their status mean that plans to hold a general election in 2016 seem particularly ambitious.


“Somalia is a country that has been exposed to anarchy for over two decades. One thing is very clear that Somalia is fragmented into pieces,” Mr Hassan said.


“Reversing all that has been happening in the past two decades is a very tedious work that requires some time.”


But the significant number of foreign-based Somalis returning home to invest their time or money in the country reflects the confidence that many have in the president – who is attempting to overcome a politics previously dominated by clan – and the new era that many believe has begun.


And Somalis in Britain, of which there are over 100,000, are central to that.


“They are the front-runners who come early, who have started the reconstruction of Somalia. Today in Mogadishu, new hotels, new restaurants, new supermarkets are established, all of them established by the diaspora people. Those in Britain are very important and I’m going to meet them when I go to London,” he said.


The president expects non-Somali British firms to follow hot on their heels.


“The environment is not conducive enough for heavy investment. But so far what we are seeing, the people who are approaching, who have very clear proposals, who already come making assessments for the investments, many of them are British and we are expecting that there will be a lot of British investment in this country.”


Despite much well-placed optimism, Somalia’s quiet but determined president is facing an onerous task. Domestic and international expectations are high, peace remains fragile and potential pitfalls clutter the path ahead.


But, as he puts it, firmly: “It is critical for Somalia. This is the right time.”

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Tony Blair 'I saved the Middle East from terrorism'


D. Cameron 'I've saved and built the Horn the Africa'



What great Masters our white Master are.

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Reeyo;946313 wrote:
Tony Blair 'I saved the Middle East from terrorism'


D. Cameron 'I've saved and built the Horn the Africa'



What great Masters our white Master are.

That's a shocking thing to say, even in sarcasm.

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Muqdisho lost its brain cells 22 yrs ago and since been in coma but awaiting for a brain donor.

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