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African Leaders See Historic Opportunities for Somalia

Hailemariam Desalegn attends the inauguration ceremony of Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Mogadishu September 16, 2012. Hailemariam Desalegn attends the inauguration ceremony of Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Mogadishu September 16, 2012.
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Hailemariam Desalegn attends the inauguration ceremony of Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Mogadishu September 16, 2012.
Hailemariam Desalegn attends the inauguration ceremony of Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Mogadishu September 16, 2012.
African leaders say the election of a new Somali president holds historic opportunities for peace and stability that the international community must not let pass.  

South African President Jacob Zuma says the international community must back the people of Somalia as they embrace the new freedoms of a new government after decades of conflic

"Sustainable peace is possible in Somalia.  The adoption of the provisional constitution has set in place the foundation for building the pillars on which peace will thrive," said Zuma.

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud won election as Somali president earlier this month, ending a long transition process made possible largely because African troops expelled al-Shabab militants from the capital, Mogadishu.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn says the new Somali government needs a lot of help from the international community, but help that does not infringe on Somali ownership of its own recovery.

"We have no doubt that the new leadership will continue to deepen national reconciliation and focus on building and strengthening the necessary governance institutions to ensure the provision of basic services and promote economic recovery.  There is real momentum for durable peace in Somalia, and the chances for making the process irreversible have never been as excellent as they currently are," said Desalegn.

European Union Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton says the election of a new Somali president is a decisive turning point.  But she says the work of transformation is just beginning.

"We have to review quickly and carefully how the international community is organized so we can react and coordinate our support.  This country deserves a united, efficient and transparent organization of our international assistance," said Ashton.

In the next four weeks, Ashton says there should be immediate support for the new government.  In the next four months, she says there should be a "New Deal for Somalia" that forms the basis for development through new elections.

"And then finally, the four years' time: the strategic phase in which we consolidate security, build Somali capacity, reintegrate Somalia into the international financial institutions, and help to prepare for those elections," she said.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti says the new Somali government understands well the breadth of the challenges before it.

"We expect that due attention will be given to developing the institutional and legal framework of democracy, rule of law and human rights - including freedom of religion.  Once the new constitution will be fully implemented, civil coexistence will be truly effective in Somalia," said Monti.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the international community will continue to back an African Union intervention force as it advances on al-Shabab positions in the port of Kismayo, alongside fighters allied to the new Somali government.

"We will work closely with the new government as it takes more of a leading role.  We will maintain our support for the security sector and focus on sustainable and comprehensive reform.  As more areas are liberated from al-Shabab, the government will need to establish police forces and courts," said Clinton.

With more than 2 million Somalis still in need of life-saving humanitarian assistance and many more facing hunger and malnutrition, Clinton says donors must not forget those Somalis who have fled the country.

"Kenya has been extremely generous in sponsoring hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees and we have to continue to work over time to relocate those refugees back in their homes," she said.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki wants U.N. agencies and international donors to move Somali refugees from camps in Kenya to areas of Somalia no longer under al-Shabab control.

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