Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on Friday called on al-Shabab militants to end what he called their “suicidal mission” and stop their brutal attacks.
In a speech marking Somalia’s 56th anniversary of independence, the president urged the Islamist insurgents to think of the lives they disrupt.
“I want to send this Ramadan message to al-Shabab leaders and militias — to abandon this suicidal mission, to stop killing the innocent, to stop terrorizing their parents and brothers, to avoid orphaning Somali children,” he said. “I urge them to cross over and come over to the government’s side in order to live a normal life, and their rights will be protected.”
He said the Somali army, with the support of African Union troops, had achieved “tangible success” against al-Shabab — although the group continues to carry out attacks, such as a hotel bombing that killed 15 people in Mogadishu last Saturday.
He said “the sun is setting” on al-Shabab and that “there is no doubt that the Somali people will be the eventual victors in this fight.”
Mohamud said the government was working to rebuild the national army, long an elusive goal for Somalia’s leaders. The African Union force, AMISOM, has provided protection for Somali governments for nearly a decade.
Mohamud said that Somalia would hold elections this year and that the country would establish a new upper house of parliament.
“It’s not a one person, one vote [system], but it will be superior to the election we had in 2012,” he said. “We need compromise, patience and cooperation.”
Somalia declared independence on July 1, 1960, when the Italian-colonized parts of the country became free and united with the British-colonized region in the north. The British part had become independent just five days earlier.
The country is trying to emerge from more than two decades of conflict and chaos triggered by the fall of military ruler Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.