Thursday, October 13, 2011

Jerry Rawlings visits Somalia, condemns extremist attack

Mogadishu, Oct 13 – Former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings who is the African Union High Representative for Somalia visited Mogadishu to console bereaved families of a recent suicide attack as well as to inspire the government to keep up with its political and military transformation in order to prepare the country for elections scheduled for August next year.

Speaking after meeting Somali President Sheikh Sharif and Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali as well as AMISOM commanders, Rawlings noted that Mogadishu is slowly recovering from the protracted war and condemned a recent suicide attack in Mogadishu by Al-Shabaab extremists which killed over 80 people and wounded more than 100 others. Most of the fatalities were Somali students hoping to pursue further studies in Turkey.

“My main reason for coming was to come and express my condolence to the parents through the government for those who lost their lives and to actually make them understand that this kind of cowardly and brutal behavior by the extremists is an admission of their military failure and this is why they had to resort to picking on some target, to picking on innocents which am afraid will only cost them politically,” Rawlings said after his one day visit to Mogadishu before away.

The former Ghanian leader said that he discussed with Somali leaders about the ongoing peace efforts and hopes to see Somali politicians coming together to steer the country past the current transition period which is impeding the much needed reconstruction efforts the war ravaged country badly needs.

“The military push seems to be far ahead of the political move, the political transformation, the political process that should be taking place. The sooner we close the gap the better it will be for all of us. I think in itself will generate a very healthy atmosphere among the public that we are serious about going through the transition and ending the transition as early as possible so that we can have a nationally elected institutions into the executive offices,” He said, referring to the recent military successes by Somali forces and AU peacekeepers against Al-Shabaab militants who have now been pushed out of the city.

Mr. Rawlings, whose first visit in January coincided with a humanitarian catastrophe as a result of a severe drought, said that he was pleased with the humanitarian response but called for robust mechanism to make sure the aid reaches the worst affected regions in south and central Somalia.

The pathetic conditions of tens of thousands of Somalis affected by a severe drought in Somalia many of who have fled into Mogadishu and living in squalid camps with little food or medical care has attracted world attention prompting many leaders to visit Somalia in a bid to show solidarity with the affected population.

“There is a much healthier atmosphere in terms of the social and economic activity. There is a very busy environment which I think reflects a very healthy sign. Some areas are receiving the necessary humanitarian assistance and medication but it is how to get the aid into the needy areas in the hinterland that really matters now,” he added.

The 63 year old former President of Ghana was named as the Africa Union’s High Representative to Somalia in October 2010 and tasked with mobilizing the continent and the rest of the international community to fully assume its responsibilities and contribute more actively to the quest for peace, security and reconciliation in Somalia.

He believes African countries are positively contributing towards helping Somalia attain peace but calls upon more support in order to help the once powerful country of Somalia to stand on its feet and claim its rightful place among other nations.

“There is a lot of hope otherwise Africans would not have deployed their troops on the ground suffering, sacrificing and dying for fellow Somalians to see a nation stand back on its feet. In terms of the contributions that also took place I think it is a very healthy sign that this is the first time we have embarked on this kind of request for Africans to give up themselves and I think they have done pretty well. It may not be that much but it is a beginning,” Rawlings added with a smile looking relaxed.