In an exclusive interview, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer told Voice of America's (VOA) Somali Service that the resignation of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi presents "a new opportunity" for Somalia.
"It was the right thing to do, at the right time," Frazer said, praising the former prime minister for stepping down "in the national interest." His action creates "a new dynamic" in the nation that has recently been wracked by an upsurge in conflict, she added.
Former Prime Minister Gedi stepped down in late October after months of policy disagreements with Somalia's President Abdulahi Yusuf. Frazer said the United States played no role in Gedi's resignation. Frazer said the most important characteristic of whoever is chosen as the next prime minister will be someone who can win the confidence of the Somali people.
Commenting on the violence in Mogadishu, Frazer laid the blame on insurgents and rejected the argument that the presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia is the heart of the problem. "The government has the right to protect and defend a country and the insurgents have an option, which is to join national reconciliation, join a political process, rather than to take up their grievances with the government through armed force," she said.
Frazer said the United States hopes Ethiopian troops could leave Somalia "as soon as possible," to be replaced by AMISOM peacekeepers. However, she added, if Ethiopian troops leave now, "the entire country would descend into further chaos, to deep chaos."
VOA's Somali-language service, launched in February 2007, is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of State. For more information, please visit VOA's website at www.VOANews.com/somali.