The establishment of a legitimate, functioning government and society in Somalia is the greatest problem facing the fragile African state, according to the president.
Speaking before a joint meeting of the European Parliament’s development and foreign affairs committees on 31 January, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said that “the only way out” of Somalia’s current problems is the creation of “a functioning state”.
The president was speaking on the last day of a three-day visit to Brussels during which he met with EU leads to discuss mutual relations and areas of co-operation in defence and security matters. He visit also coincided with a foreign affairs council during which the subject of piracy in the Horn of Africa – one one the biggest threats to security in the region – was being discussed.
He told MEPs that he was optimistic that together Somalia and Europe could “find a way forward” to address outstanding problems in the country and region, but admitted that the “list of problems is too long” at the moment to rectify the situation swiftly. Instead the Somali government is concentrating on three main priories to ensure stability in the country; security, judicial capacity, and the public financing of state institutions.
The situation in Somalia is fragile at present. For 22 years the country was effectively a failed state, with no functioning democracy. For 12 years a transitional mechanism was in place, a situation only ended with the election of President Mohamud and the installation of a government in August 2012.
No one, not least the president himself, believes this, however, represents an end to past problems. “Yes, we have a permanent government; yes, the government has wide support; yes, it has representatives of different sections of society, but it is very clear we still have to move Somalia away from the situation it was in”, he said.
He says that consolidating nascent government institutions is his main priority, not just in the capital, Mogadishu, but also in the regions, making the government, he says, “legitimate in the eyes of the citizens, and the international community”.
“The only way out, is to create a functioning state”, he says, adding that of the 18 regions in the country, only seven have “relative stability”. His government is focussing, therefore, on the other 11 regions and 72 districts.
One of the main problems in the country, he says, is the lack of educational take-up, a situation he links to criminality. “Only 25% of children go to school, and that is because they can afford to pay $10 at the end of each month; that’s 75% who do not go to school. The consequences of this, the initial assessments, are that they end up involved in piracy or terrorism. A child who was 5 years old when the problems started, is now 27; and with no school he is easily recruit-able for evil activities”.
The root cause of recruitment into these activities is “the lack of a Somali state”, and a “young generation that is so hopeless, which is what makes them so attractive to the pirates”. The key to combating piracy, says the president, “is creating hope for these young boys”.
“Somalia is in the same situation as Europe was in 1945”, says Mohamud, “except with two added problems, extremism and terrorism. You are the people who have a history, who know what it looks like when a country is totally shattered”. He said that Somalia, with the aid of Europe, s need to find a “different way forward, a different way of doing things”.