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Somali president shows confidence in eliminating jihadists

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

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The fledgling Somali government plans to restore security by eradicating militias in two years time as it embarks on a political and economic renewal after 22 years of civil strife and political turmoil.

"The government is focusing on economic recovery to create employment to make young people less attracted to joining militant group Al-shabaab," Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said in a recent interview with Kyodo News in the Ethiopian capital.

But to bring peace and stability, the government has to address the root causes of conflict such as poverty, lack of opportunities, hopelessness, access to arms and the spiral of revenge among clans.

Although ridding extremism is a long term issue, the Somali government hopes that with support from the international community, it can strengthen its security forces, expand the economy and change people's ideology. The government now wants foreign jihadists to leave and it wants to rehabilitate the local fighters.

Japan has been supporting the Somali Police Force, helping improve the security situation over the last six or seven months after the launch of the new government under President Mohamud.

In the early 1990s, Japan was involved in Somalia through various sectors like telecommunications and fishery, but after the intensification of the civil war, it only engaged through the U.N. and other international programs.

Somalia lost everything in the civil war and had to start again from the scratch, Mohamud said, adding the country was fragmented into various semi-autonomous regions including Somaliland, Puntland and Jubaland.

But now a political process to reunite these areas back into a single unitary state is under way. "We are using dialogue to bring back one Somalia. I personally visited Puntland and now we have a delegation in Kismayu to open dialogue with people in that region," Mohamud said.

This week, a forum on Somalia's recovery and reconstruction is to be held in Japan ahead of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), which will start in Yokohama on Saturday for a three-day run.

"One of the areas we want Japan to support us in is development of human capital like technical training" as well as equipment assistance in telecommunications, Mohamud said.

He said he will visit Japan for the first time to attend the international meetings. Somalia's attendance at the TICAD will be a first for the African nation that is striving to recover from the aftermath of the civil war that started in 1991.

Sixty percent of Somalia's population are uneducated youths, and the country needs international assistance in such areas as fishery, agriculture, food production and telecommunications.

"So these are some of the plans and priorities that Somalia is going to present to the government and people of Japan to support," Mohamud said.

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