Africa
2:37 am
Sun September 22, 2013

Somali President Tries To Pull Country Out Of Emergency

Originally published on Sun September 22, 2013 6:20 am

The extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a mall Saturday in Nairobi, Kenya. Just to the east of Kenya, Somalia has been desperately trying to drive the Islamist group out of its towns and cities.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, after being in office for a year, says the terrorist network in his country has dissolved, but insecurity is still the norm. "They don't have borders," he says, noting that two recently killed leaders were an American and a British citizen. "That proves that this is an ideology, and anybody who believes that ideology is part of Shabab."

Friday, Mohamud met with Secretary of State John Kerry, who said the Somali president and his allies "have really done an amazing job of fighting back and building a state structure."

On Sept. 13, a new United Nations mission was deployed to the country, and Somalia continues to have support from the African Union. The annual United Nations General Assembly meeting opens on Tuesday, and Mohamud will be making his pitch to the international community about why Somalia is worth its aid.

He spoke with Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin about fighting al-Shabab and his hopes for Somalia.


Interview Highlights

On al-Shabab's lingering supporters

"The nature of this type of organization is when they lose militarily, they melt down into the society and they [continue] on this suicide bomb mission or roadside bombs, they're using IEDs or a bomb, hand grenade throwing in the middle of the night. And this type of incidence will continue for some time, but we have all the confidence that this will also end soon. ...

"I came to the office a year ago when Shabab was in control of all Somali territory, including Mogadishu, the capital. And from that one year, we pushed Shabab far away from the capital, and we took over most of the regional capitals in Somalia, and we're continuing to push them."

Making the case for investment, despite ongoing challenges

"This trend will continue, unless we make a genuine intervention in aid, and the only option that's available right now is the international community to support the state-building of Somalia, so that we will have functioning state institutions in place. This is what we have been sharing ... all over the world, whenever we can.

"This is the second time coming here in Washington, and we're presenting the progress that we're making and the plans that we have in place so that the world supports those plans. The world does not support individual leadership or group or whatever, they support plans and programs that take Somalia out of the emergency to recovery and then from recovery to development in the future."

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Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabab has long had a haven in Somalia in parts of the country where the Somali government has no reach. In a moment, we'll hear about the recent death of an American member of al-Shabab and his unusual communication with an American journalist. But first, a closer look at the security situation in Somalia. I spoke yesterday to Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. He's in Washington, D.C. ahead of next week's United Nations general assembly meeting. President Mohamud said al-Shabab has been driven out of Somalia's towns and cities, but there's no doubt the group still remains a threat.

PRESIDENT HASSAN SHEIKH MOHAMUD: The nature of this type of organization is when they lost militarily, they melt down into the society and they keep continuing on this suicide bomb mission or roadside bombs, they're using IEDs or a bomb, hand grenade throwing in the middle of the night. And this type of incidence will continue for some time, but we have all the confidence that this will also end soon.

MARTIN: So, you're saying while the network itself may have dissolved, individual members who are still intent on waging some kind of jihad are conducting their own individual attacks.

MOHAMUD: Yes. They are there and they don't have borders, of course. Somalia might be where they have training centers or bomb-making factories or things like that. But, you know, the top leadership of Shabaab, including those who have been killed recently, which was American citizens and British citizens who were the leading figures in the hierarchies of al-Shabab, that proves that this is an ideology and anybody who believes that ideology is part of Shabab. So, now is the only time that al-Shabab is really defeated. I'm saying that they do control territories but these controlled territories are very remote areas.

MARTIN: Do you have any influence in those parts of the country? How far does your government's reach extend in Somalia?

MOHAMUD: I came to the office a year ago when Shabab was in control of all Somali territory, including Mogadishu, the capital. And from that one year, we pushed Shabab far away from the capital, and we took over most of the regional capitals in Somalia, and we're continuing to push them. And I think we made a lot of progress in the last one year and we keep continuing on taking over those strategic points. And then make - follow them onto these remote areas.

MARTIN: When you come to the U.N. general assembly, when you meet with other heads of state, how do you make the case that Somalia, even though victimized by violence of all kinds, civil war, Islamist militant threat, extreme poverty, piracy, that Somalia is still worth a heavy investment in terms of international aid?

MOHAMUD: You see, this type of trend will continue, unless we make a genuine intervention in aid, and the only option that's available right now is the international community to support the state-building of Somalia, so that we will have functioning state institutions in place. This is what we have been sharing all over the world whenever we can. This is the second time coming here in Washington, and we're presenting the progress that we're making and the plans that we have in place so that the world supports those plans. The world does not support individual leadership or group or whatever, they support plans and programs that takes Somalia out of the emergency to recovery and then from recovery to development in the future.

MARTIN: President Mohamud of Somalia, thank you so much for talking with us.

MOHAMUD: You're most welcome. Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.