Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Brace for change, new Somali PM tells his people

Mogadishu, November 30 – Somalia’s youthful Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi is urging his war weary countrymen to be prepared for change as a new lean cabinet made up technocrats he recently swore in prepares to turn around events in the lawless Horn of African country plagued by 19 years of conflict.

Security, government accountability, reconciliation and revenue collection are the top priorities for the 48 year Prime Minister who hopes to achieve them with help from a team of 18 ministers majority of who are from the Diaspora just like him.

Many ordinary Somalis have high hopes of the new cabinet and see them new as the best chance for the beleaguered Somali government to assert its authority amid an Islamist onslaught led by the ruthless Al-Shabab militias who have completely made it impossible for the young administration to provide much needed social services to its majority poor population.

The biggest challenge facing the new team is time. They have less than a year before the mandate of the transitional federal government expires in August 2011. However, Prime Minister Mohamed is optimistic his team can deliver the peace and stability that has eluded Somalis since 1991 when the previous government was overthrown.

The 48 year old Mohamed served as a colonel in the Somali army before moving to the Foreign Ministry of the ousted government of President Mohamed Siad Barre. He later worked in the Somali embassy in Washington from 1985 to 1989 where he remained until his recent appointment to the challenging office of Premiership.

“Our people should know that time has come to embrace peace and stability. This is something my government intends to accomplish. Its time for change. If every Somali citizen can play his part and work with this government we will achieve our goal. The people should not loose hope. I think we can defeat this enemy called Al-Shabab and bring peace and stability to this great country called Somalia,” he said, speaking from a roof top at the main base of African Union peacekeepers backing his government

Prime Minister Mohamed says the new cabinet he chose is made up of professional and promises to change the way the government conducts its businesses. He is also very keen to see government forces getting stipends and salaries, something that previous governments failed to honour and which is believed by many people as single biggest reason why previous administrations have flopped.

“Our troops should be given first priority not only on material or monetary things but we also have to provide them with anything they need in order to give them a reason and purpose to fight for their country. After we fix the issue of insecurity in Mogadishu then we have to think of ways to settle the political issues through genuine reconciliation and then we can start collecting revenues or taxes. In future, the government must be self sufficient,” Prime Minister Mohamed said.

Unlike his predecessors, Mohamed comes with knowledge of financial management from his previous jobs in New York where he managed funds estimated to be hundreds of thousands of dollars. He warned corrupt government officials saying he would not tolerate corruption.

“We have to make sure our people feel proud of their government. Every government revenues or expenditure has to be made public and anyone who tries to engage in corruption will be exposed and put to trial. This new cabinet knows the problems the previous governments have been through and we have to learn from past mistakes. This is our country and we cannot gamble with it. We have to restore hope and bring back peace. There is no any other option for us since our people are suffering,” he said, choosing his words very carefully.

He heaped praise on President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda who this week become the first head of state to visit Mogadishu. Museveni is also the first President to have sent his forces in Somalia in 2007 to serve as African Union peacekeepers, where they are still stationed together with Burundian forces who later joined them.

“I think the people of Uganda are really fortunate to have a President like Museveni who is a great leader. The courage and leadership he showed to come to Mogadishu and send his forces is simply tremendous. I hope his visit will pave way for other leaders to follow suit and visit Somalia which has been portrayed as an inhospitable place where nothing but war is going on. This is a fallacy and we hope the world will not close its doors on us,” he added.