A summary of an exclusive interview with the Somali president, Ahmed Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, minutes after he delivered his remarks at the AU summit in Addis Ababa. The interview was conducted for the Somali Service by Abdi Yabarow, the Somali Service chief
*African Union’s Commitment to Bolster TFG*
The African Union is committed to reinvigorate its support for the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, said president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed of Somalia, who’s in Addis Ababa for the AU Summit.
“At this critical juncture, African states are committed to making tangible contribution to Somalia,” said Ahmed. He added that he received reassurances that these pledges, like previous ones, wouldn’t go unfulfilled.
Exactly a year ago this week, Ahmed flew to Addis Ababa hours after he was elected in neighboring Djibouti. He appealed to the AU to help his devastated nation end a perpetual civil war that pillaged the country for nearly 20 years. AU leaders pledged to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with his new administration.
Asked how the AU’s new pledge is different from the one a year ago, Ahmed said African leaders realized that if they don’t intervene in Somalia, “the crisis of Somalia could spill into other African states. They also realized that AMISOM [the African Union peacekeepers] needs to be bolstered, and that the plight of Somalia has gone far too long.”
Ahmed said his hopes of ushering in a new era of stability and reconstruction were dashed “by Somali people who are connected to foreign terrorist elements who want to find a safe haven in Somalia. These elements undercut our mission.”
*Eminent Military Operation?*
In recent months, president Ahmed and his top aides repeatedly alluded to eminent military operation against the insurgency. The president himself was photographed in a military uniform addressing the armed forces.
Asked if a military operation is eminent, the president said: “The armed forces are prepared. They’re ready to undertake their task.”
Still, the president said his government will continue the reconciliation path. Together with the military operations, the reconciliation could make a difference, he said.
Asked his reaction to the news that a senior Islamist rebel leader, Sheikh Hassan al-Turki, decision to join al-Shabaab, Ahmed dismissed it as a non-event. “The two groups were fighting against us collaboratively, so their joining forces is irrelevant.”
*Priorities for this Year*
Restoring the security will be the number one priority of the government, said Ahmed. “But also reconstruction will be another priority, as well as good governance and transparency,” he added. “Also, we plan to rehabilitate and help the internally displaced people.”
(Should you want to listen to the entire interview with President Sharif Ahmed in the Somali version, visit our website VOASomali.com)