By Nour Gidi
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said Mogadishu, with military support from African Union’s peacekeeping forces, had managed to reduce the threat from the al-Shabaab terrorist group.
In an exclusive interview conducted by Anadolu Agency in Mogadishu, he also affirmed presidential and parliamentary elections will be organized next November after being postponed few days ago.
“The war on terror has become an international issue, for Africa, Asia, and Europe, and Somalia is a part of this war," he told Anadolu Agency.
He pointed out that Somalia “has become one of the few countries to have managed to reduce the threat of terrorism and it will get rid of the al-Shabaab tumor soon."
Over 20,000 troops are stationed in Somalia as part of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) fighting the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab movement, which was created at the beginning of 2004.
The Somali president stressed on the importance of also fighting al-Shabaab’s ideas.
“The tools [to win] this war will come through encouraging education and opening scientific and intellectual centers to fight the terrorists’ ideas, as well as fighting against poverty, which indeed feeds the ideas of extremism,” he said.
"I think this can be accomplished by providing the required development for the country's economy, which enables us to create job opportunities for the young people [in order] to dry up the sources of terrorism in our country," he added.
The Somali president also addressed the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections.
"The elections will be held on schedule in November and the government is working to overcome all obstacles that might hinder holding [them]," he said
Somalia is preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections that were supposed to take place on Sept. 25, before being postponed by the Election Commission due to financial and technical reasons.
The election process is expected to last a few weeks. Lower house members are to be elected by some 14,000 delegates, while the upper house is to be designated by regional states. Both houses will elect the new president.
UN regrets delay
The United Nations Security Council expressed regret Thursday over the month-long delay.
"The organization of peaceful and transparent elections in Somalia represents a historic step for all Somalis and a turning point for progress towards democracy and stability in the country," the UN said in a statement, urging all parties to “honor their commitments and to reach without delay an agreement on the policy challenges that lie ahead.”
It also warned parties in Somalia against taking “any action that would undermine the political transition process”.
"Technical reasons may hinder holding presidential and parliamentary elections in the country that has not seen any election of this kind for nearly 47 years,” said the current president. “The security forces are ready to secure the presidential and parliamentary elections in the country, with the support of the AMISOM peacekeeping forces, and it would respond rigorously to any attempt to disturb holding of these elections.”
Since the outbreak of civil war in 1991, the troubled country in the Horn of Africa has remained in the grip of on-again, off-again violence.
Somalia's has since gone through four presidential and parliamentary elections, three of which were held outside the country in Kenya and Djibouti, while the ones in 2012, in which the current president was elected, were held in the capital Mogadishu.
The Somali president expressed his confidence in being elected for a second term, advancing the "accomplishments that had been achieved during his four-years of rule”, adding that he was “still ready to push the country towards further development and prosperity.”
Mohamud does not downplay his opponents' chances, noting that “the Somali people have the last word in the election as they have also the right to choose any candidate who has a clear political agenda."
More than 15 candidates vie for the presidential election, the more prominent of which are the current president, current Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke, and former president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
'Turkey's prominent role
Mohamud also delivered praise for Turkey’s involvement in the Horn of Africa country.
"Turkey’s prominent role in Somalia can be seen at all levels: humanitarian, infrastructure, health and investment.
“I am not exaggerating if I say that the historic visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Somalia in 2011 was a turning point in the evolution of security and stability in the country," he said.
"Turkey is a historical key partner for Somalia as Turkey stood with us at a time when we were ignored by the whole world,” he added. “Turkey drew the world's attention on Somalia and the Somali people respect and appreciate the Turkish government and the Turkish people as well."
Ali Abo Rezeg has contributed to this report from Ankara