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Somalia’s New President Calls on al-Shabaab to Surrender | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Somalia’s newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo and his wife Zeinab Abdi listen to speeches during his inauguration ceremony in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, February 22, 2017. /REUTERS

Cairo – Somalia’s new president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, widely known as Farmajo, officially took office on Wednesday, promising his people that the era of al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab and other Islamist militant groups was over.

In his speech, Farmajo reached out to youths who are fighting alongside extremists, suggesting the government would offer them alternatives to a life of violence, promising them “a good life” if they did.

“Somalia is united today and we are telling the misguided Somali youngsters to abstain from detonating themselves into their people and not to destroy the property of their country,” he declared.

“We are ready to welcome those misguided youths with open hands and to provide them with incentives to start up their business,” he said.

Concerning the deteriorating security situation in the country, Farmajo said that government will not rob but will help its people.

“We shall fight insecurity, economic crisis and unemployment,” he insisted.

Amid intensified security measures, the inauguration of the new president took place where all major roads and streets inside and outside the capital were blocked and commercial flights cancelled.

The inauguration was held Wednesday in the presence of several regional leaders including President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, as well as delegations from Kuwait and Egypt, and representatives from the U.N., African Union, EU, Arab League and Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD).

Farmajo, a former prime minister, is Somalia’s ninth president and was sworn in at a ceremony held in the highly secured airport zone to avoid an attack by al-Shabaab, which has threatened a war against the new government.

Police officer Ibrahim Mohammed said that all main roads and streets inside and outside the capital were closed since the night before the inauguration and only official vehicles were allowed to pass. Similarly, all commercial flights were cancelled and only those carrying delegations were allowed to land at the airport.

High Representative of EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini telephoned the new President of Somalia prior to his inauguration.

Mogherini wished him every success for his mandate and welcomed the peaceful transition.

She added that she was confident that the president will ensure a smooth and conciliatory government formation process for the sake of progress in Somalia.

She also commended the president’s commitment to stamp out corruption.

British International Development Secretary Priti Patel has announced new packages of life-saving UK aid for South Sudan and Somalia and issued a call to action to the international community to step up their support before it is too late.

The UK pledged to grant a £100m in new support to Somalia, as well as food assistance for over 500,000 people in South Sudan and emergency food to up to one million people in Somalia.

“The world faces a series of unprecedented humanitarian crises and the real threat of famine in four countries. These crises are being driven by conflict and drought and we must respond accordingly,” Patel said.

Farmajo has already taken office following a handover ceremony last week during which al-Shabaab fighters fired mortar shells near the presidential palace, killing five persons including two children at a nearby school.

Shabab also bombed a car at a busy market on Sunday killing 39 people, in a clear sign of the challenge against Farmajo, who enjoys great public support.

Meanwhile, Hassan Ali Kheyre, a former aid worker and oil executive, was named prime minister of Somalia on Thursday by the president.

Farmajo made the announcement on Twitter.