Somalia's newly elected President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is expected in Djibouti today to name a new prime minister to form a government. President Sharif is also expected to meet with Somali parliamentarians who are currently in Djibouti to discuss relocating a temporary parliament building from Baidoa to the capital, Mogadishu. The Islamic insurgent group al-Shabab recently took control of the Baidoa parliament building and promised to institute Sharia law. Described as a terrorist organization by Washington, al-Shabab rejected reconciliation gestures from new President Sharif, vowing to continue fighting until his government is defeated. Abdallah Haji Ahmed is the Somali defense minister. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that President Sharif is determined to include all opposing forces in an attempt to restore peace and stability in Somalia.
"You know, al-Shabab was part of the religious group, and they haven't seen their interest in the new system or with the Sheikh Sharif's government, or with Sheikh Sharif's ARS (Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia), which we were having the peace negotiation with them in Djibouti. And since that time, they (al-Shabab) were trying to oppose the position of the liberation (ARS) movement or the peace process," Haji Ahmed noted.
He said al-Shabab is being paraded like a fearsome organization, contrary to its real strength, which he claims is on the decline.
"In the media, it seems they are being promoted like a big force to reckon with, but they don't have forces, and they are only pockets of people with special interests, unknown interests to us until now. But we are dealing with them. We are opening the gate for them to come to the table for peace and the president has also announced today in a rally which was held in Mogadishu that the doors are open for anybody who wants to come for peace," he said.
Haji Ahmed said there are ongoing negotiations with minority groups with the aim of inviting them to join the government in its attempt to bring peace and stability to the country, which has not known an effective government for the past 18 years.
"All the opposition groups are minority groups, and we have been planning and talking to some of them. We have already started negotiating with some of them yesterday, whether they are from Mogadishu or from other parts of the country, although we don't really want to reveal the details of our negotiations. We are also talking to other people outside the country or abroad, and we welcome them and everybody. We are also trying to bring everybody on board to get the stability and to get the peace for Somalia," Haji Ahmed pointed out.
He said Somali parliamentarians currently meeting in Djibouti would soon return to the country to continue their work in the capital, Mogadishu after their temporary interval.
"As you know Baidoa used to be the temporary seat for the parliamentarians of Somalia. The parliament seat was in the capital, Mogadishu, and since we are now in Mogadishu and now have the upper hand and holding Mogadishu perfectly, they would come here. About 90 percent of Mogadishu is now under control, and all the Somali parliamentarians would be relocated to Mogadishu and not Baidoa," he said.
Haji Ahmed said President Sharif would name his prime minister in Djibouti today to begin constituting a government soon.
"The president has announced that he is going back to Djibouti today hopefully, and then he would announce a new prime minister. After the prime minster is nominated in Djibouti and a new government formed, then we would come back and the relocation of the Somali parliamentarians to Mogadishu would commence instead of in Baidoa," Haji Ahmed noted.
President Sharif once headed a sharia Courts Movement that brought some stability to Mogadishu and most of south Somalia in 2006, before the Ethiopian invasion ousted them. Washington accused hard-line members of the Courts Movement of having strong links with the terrorist organization, al-Qaeda.
Somalia was plunged into chaos after
strongman Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. He came to power in 1969
through a coup d'état and ruled Somalia until he was deposed in 1991.