(Asharq Al-Awsat) Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf asserted when entering the Somali capital Mogadishu yesterday for the first time since becoming president two years ago that Ethiopian troops, which helped the forces loyal to his transitional authority that he has been leading since 2004 to defeat the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) militias, “did not come to occupy Somalia and will leave Somali territories as soon as the deployment of regional and international peacekeeping forces starts.” Yusuf told “Asharq al-Awsat” in a telephone contact from the Somali capital that he would remain in Mogadishu for some time so as to hold talks with the various leaders of Somalia’s society, including leaders of tribes and clans and representatives of civil society organizations, and consult them about the future situation in the country.
Yusuf held a series of meetings with representatives of Al-Ayr tribe to which former President Abdul-Salam Salad and UIC leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Uways belong. The latter fled from his last stronghold in Kismayo to some unknown place.
Yusuf aides said the aim of these meetings “is to remove any misunderstanding between the Somali authority and Al-Ayr tribe and pointed out that Yusuf is playing an important role in persuading this tribe to stop any support for the UIC, agree to follow the transitional authority, and cooperate with it so as to open a new page in relations between the two sides.”
A prominent aide to Yusuf told “Asharq al-Awsat” that the president does not intend to move officially to the capital before the security situations stabilize and the elimination of the danger of the UIC that is attacking the Ethiopian forces in the city.
Yusuf said he was happy to enter the capital, adding that his return to it in difficult conditions require all the Somalis to unite and cooperate with the transitional authority so as to rebuild what the civil war, which broke out after the downfall of deposed President Mohammad Siad Barre in 1991, had destroyed.
Yusuf pointed out that he has no worries about Ethiopia’s intention and called the Ethiopian military presence in his country temporary and to serve the efforts to achieve security and stability in Somalia. He added: The Ethiopians did not come to occupy us. We asked them to help us face the danger that the Islamists represented. Now and following the latter’s military and political defeat, the Ethiopian presence is linked to the start of the deployment of regional peacekeeping forces, in which some other parties concerned with backing stability in Somalia might participate. He went on to say that there is an understanding between the Ethiopian prime minister and him on this and that Ethiopia did not enter Somalia to occupy it but to enable its people, authority, and government confront the Islamists.
The Somali president stressed that his country needs urgent international aid and appealed to the international community, especially the Arab leaders and presidents, to play a prominent and pivotal role in this. He asserted that the “Somali people look toward their Arab brothers to aid and help them rebuild and revive the Somali state’s institutions that were ruined and destroyed during the 16 years of civil war.” He said: “There is difficult work ahead of us and we must do everything to make our people feel safe, secure, and in peace.” He then pointed out that the coming stage requires international and regional support so that his country can impose its security and military control on all Somalia’s territories.
High-level Somali sources disclosed to “Asharq al-Awsat” that the Somali president is planning to make a limited Arab tour that might include Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Libya to brief their leaders on the situation in Somalia and ask for their help within the framework of a plan he will launch soon to start the reconstruction in his country.
High-level Somali sources also said that consultations are at present underway between Cairo and Washington at the highest levels to reach an understanding on how to back the Somali authority that represents the only legitimacy in Somalia. They added that US President George Bush’s administration believes it is possible to increase the regional peacekeeping forces in Somalia to include Western and Arab forces under the UN umbrella. They noted that Jendayi Frazer, the assistant US Secretary of State for African affairs, met both Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf and his Prime Minister Ali Gedi in the Kenyan capital Nairobi and got their approval of this.