19 May 2007 04:26

SOMALIA WATCH

 
SW News
  • Title: [SW News] (IRIN) Interview With  the "President"
  • Posted by/on:[AMJ][Tuesday, August 29, 2000]

 

SOMALIA: IRIN interview with President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan

 

ARTA, Djibouti, 28 August (IRIN) - Somalia's newly elected president Abdiqassim Salad Hassan talked to IRIN in Arta, Djibouti, where he is staying temporarily in a government villa. Elected on 25 August - Somalia's first head of state in 10 years - Hassan said he would appoint a prime minister and begin to put together a government of "national unity". In the first interview since being sworn in as president on Sunday, he told IRIN he would return home to the capital, Mogadishu, this week.

QUESTION: Now that you have been elected and sworn in, what is the next step?

ANSWER: Well, I think the next step is to form the government. We will nominate the prime minister and then we will form the government.

Q: And what sort of dilemmas are there in choosing a prime minister?

A: As in all the affairs of Somalia today, the dilemmas are many. On this question we have to consult different parliamentary groups and we have to see who is the right man. In a parliamentary democracy the prime minister should have the majority of the parliament and its confidence.

Q: How are you going to deal with the warlords?

A: Well, I'm not going to deal with the warlords actually, I'll be dealing with the people. I have every confidence in our people. From what I know, there are demonstrations of support in many parts of Somalia, especially in the south. There is no basis of support for certain warlords in the south. In the north, the case is different. So for the warlords, I think some will be ignored and others we will have a dialogue with. Ultimately it will be the people who will force them to change course - they cannot stand against the will of the people, their own clan. Everybody is here (in Arta, Djibouti) - including the sub-tribes, certain elements, certain warlords in the south and their supporters. So I'm very optimistic that it won't be a problem. And I am going to Mogadishu. Mogadishu is the capital of Somalia and I am the president of Somalia.

Q: Will you go soon, or do the threats by the warlords concern you?

A: No, I don't think there is any serious threat. We have been under constant threat for the last ten years; but not because of the warlords but because of the proliferation of weapons and youngsters on the streets of Mogadishu. I don't see any special threat and I will go to Mogadishu as soon as possible.

Q: When?

A: When depends on certain arrangements, like transportation.

Q: Your critics say you are too closely allied to Islamic fundamentalists.

A: I have no such alliance, and I don't know them. I am Muslim by faith; I have respect for other faiths, like Judaism and Christianity. This is personal business. State affairs are state affairs. Personal beliefs are personal beliefs. They are separate elements. As for fundamentalism, I never support extremists. This is what fundamentalism means. I am against extremism, whether it is religious or ideological.

Q: You had a high profile in Mohamed Siad Barre's government. What was your relationship with him like?

A: I was a member of Siad Barre's government. Let me state there are, right now in Somalia, three generations. The first generation of independence are largely dead or of a very old age. The second generation is my generation, and practically everyone of my generation had a role in twenty years of government. That was not Siad's government, it was the nation's government. Siad was the president, the man who was leading Somalia for 20 years. Everyone who was in Somalia - intellectual or otherwise - served in one or other capacity in that administration. Not necessarily as a minister, but in any other capacity. So that generation is the generation who can run the government now. And because of that they have been chosen to be members of parliament; they have been chosen to be leaders of parliament; and I have been chosen to be president. The third generation is the generation of the 10 years (of civil war), who are not in a position to lead. So, Mohamed Siad Barre's era is in the history of Somalia. I was part of that history - I was a minister and involved in that. But one has to distinguish between those who committed crimes and those who were against the crimes that were committed. If the people of Somalia, through their representatives, knew that I was a criminal, or misbehaved or misappropriated funds, they would not have chosen me as president. So I am confident it is not a black spot, either for me or anybody else who served when Mohamed Siad Barre was there. But if there were some who committed crimes, they have to face justice.

Hassan - "I am the president of Somalia. There is a law, there is a charter. The law of the charter will apply to everybody who committed a crime under Siad Barre or after"

Q: How?

A: I am the president of Somalia. There is a law, there is a charter. The law of the charter will apply to everybody who committed a crime under Siad Barre or after.

Q: What do you think the biggest obstacle is now to forming a government of national unity?

A: I don't see any such big obstacle. We have to consult with different groups, parliamentary groups, so that we come to a decision over who is the best to serve as prime minister. Of course we have to look at the country in its different geographical positions and clan composition, and what will best compliment the government - who should be hired, or at least participate in it.

Q: What role do you see the donors and international aid agencies taking now?

A: I think the new government of Somalia will establish certain principles and rules for the donors and international agencies. And according to this, everyone who wants to help Somalia will follow those rules. In the last 10 years in the country, there was, according to my knowledge and understanding, a lot of chaos in this international assistance. We have to maximise the usefulness of that assistance to the Somali people. In order to do that, we have to have a mechanism.

Q: After you were elected on Friday night, when you were finally alone, what was most on your mind?

A: (pause) The heavy responsibility on my shoulders, was on my mind. The practically nearly impossible task in front of me was on my mind. The cooperation of the Somali people everywhere - whom I need in order to succeed - was on my mind. These, and other considerations, were on my mind. They still are.

[ENDS]

____________________________________________________________________________________

IRIN Focus on the task facing the new transitional authority

  President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan
ARTA, Djibouti 28 August (IRIN) - Somalia's newly-elected transitional authority will have to garner international and domestic support following the election in neighbouring Djibouti of an interim parliament, the Transitional National Assembly (TNA), and a new head of state, President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan.

Representatives from African and Arab bodies said Guelleh succeeded in obtaining the crucial commitment of key neighbouring states to bless Hassan's inauguration

The task, analysts told IRIN, would begin with the leaders who attended his inauguration in Arta, Djibouti, on Sunday - including the presidents of Yemen, Sudan and Eritrea, and the prime minister of Ethiopia, as well as other regional leaders. Representatives from other African and Arab bodies, such as the Organisation of African Unity, also attended.

They said President Ismael Omar Guelleh of Djibouti had succeeded not only with the peace the talks, but also in obtaining the crucial commitment of key neighbouring states to bless Hassan's inauguration.

Over the past decade of civil war and anarchy in Somalia, 12 other attempts at peace talks failed. Most neighbouring states have at one time or another been criticised by Somali leaders for pursuing their own agenda in the failed state by shoring up different factions and pushing forward choice candidates for president. They said it was a triumph of regional diplomacy for Guelleh to retain the support of neighbouring governments from the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

  President elect with Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh

The talks were IGAD supported. National acceptance in Somalia is the next biggest hurdle. All the main clans were represented in the Arta process, and most of the sub-clans. But they said, the real test would be in terms of the reception they get in Somalia itself and how they manage to control the territory.

Diplomatic sources said Hassan believed it essential to take the situation in hand immediately and fly sometime this week to Baidoa - voted the transitional capital if needed - and Mogadishu, the historic capital, now ruined by years of civil war.

His arrival in Mogadishu would require a show of force from the business community and the Islamic Courts. Combined, they have the greatest number of "technicals" (vehicles converted into gun carriages) and militia men. Already in the last couple of years, they have played a significant role in neutralising faction leaders.

The once-powerful faction leaders, they said had no funds to pay their militia, and have instead had to rely on clan support. With most of the key clan elders throwing support behind the conference and the new president, this has been undercut. As Hussein Aideed, based in south Mogadishu, has threatened to prevent Hassan arriving "by port or air", he will have to enter Mogadishu from the north of the capital, where Aideed's main rival, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, has thrown his support behind the new government. A stand-off, the analysts said, would also be a test of Hussein Aideed's real standing: he has long enjoyed the description "powerful warlord" by the international community despite the fact his militia recently looted Aideed's villa protesting lack of food and money.

Hassan will probably choose to stay at least one night to assert his position and demonstrate confidence. Before travelling, the new president must appoint at least a rudimentary staff structure. He has been given a secured and tightly protected villa in Arta by the Djibouti government, and from the first morning after his election has operated with full head of state protocol out of the house of Djibouti-tycoon, Ahmed Bore. Bore, whose villa stands next to the presidential palace in Djibouti, personally contributed to the US $5 million cost of the conference and was its financial organiser.

One of the most difficult tasks also cited is the appointment of a prime minister with personal calibre and sufficient cross-clan support to win a vote of confidence from the TNA. The dilemma revolves mainly around the two remaining clans without a top power-sharing post - the Dir and the Darod. It is also crucially linked to the two self-declared administrations which boycotted the conference - Somaliland in the northwest, led by Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, and Puntland in the northeast, led by Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf. Both, the analysts said, needed to be wooed into a national government.

The choice of the prime ministerial appointment is also seen as essential to cool any post-election disappointments and maintain a consensual cross-clan balance. If the choice proves to be a poor one, it could quickly have an "unravelling effect", said one observer. Although Abdullahi Yusuf threatened to detain clan elders and politicians attending the Arta conference, saying the election of a new authority would lead to war, messages of congratulations by clan representatives in Puntland were among the first to be faxed to the new president.

Egal, an elder statesman and former prime minister, refused to join the peace talks, saying it was up to the south to sort itself out and elect a leader. After initially detaining and threatening participants from Somaliland, he moderated his approach and said he would hold talks with a new authority. He has never categorically closed the door on possible future unification, but has pointed to the attendance in Arta of former officials from a regime that carried out a bombing campaign and human rights abuses in the Northwest That President Hassan is said to enjoy a good relationship with Egal was one of his strong electoral points. But now, the analysts said, it was up to him to initiate a successful dialogue with the leader who has successfully run Somaliland since 1993, with all but official recognition from donors and aid agencies.

On 3 September, Hassan is expected to go to Saudi Arabia - a country Djibouti is forging close links with - and then later on to New York for the UN Millennium conference.

Once the new president has completed his first domestic and international circuit, he would have to implement the most difficult move of all - transferring the 245 elected TNA members to the chosen seat of government, and then securing funds for a government which, so far, has nothing in the bank

. [ENDS]

 


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