The new Somali administration's efforts at restoring peace and stability have received a significant boost from the African Union, which is giving $1 million to Mogadishu to strengthen its security forces. The African Union signed an agreement with President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's government as part of the recently signed Djibouti agreement that led to the formation of the new unity government. Under the agreement, security forces from the former transitional government would join forces with those from the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) to enforce peace in the capital, Mogadishu as well as in other parts of the country.
Ambassador Nicholas Bwakirah is the AU special envoy who signed the agreement with the Somali government. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that he is confident in the prospects of the new Somali administration.
"I signed with the prime minister of Somalia a framework agreement, which foresees that we will provide assistance of $1 million which is seed money to help the government to create a national security force. Now, you have to see this in the framework of the Djibouti peace process. The Djibouti peace process has foreseen that a joint security force would be created between the formal TFG (Transitional Federal Government) and ARS to bring these two forces together to create a joint force. So it is to reinforce the institutions of Somalia to create a capacity of Somalia notably, in the area of security that we have done that," Ambassador Bwakirah noted.
He said the Africa Union understands the importance of ensuring peace in the country including the capital, Mogadishu.
"We agree with the new president of Somalia that security is a key priority. It is a show of commitment of the Africa Union that the chairman of the Africa Union, Jean Ping, had decided to make available these resources to the government of national unity of Somalia," he said.
Ambassador Bwakirah said there is growing confidence among ordinary Somalis that peace would be restored after 18 years of living under the control of armed groups.
"I think it is very significant because every Somali national is aspiring to peace. Every Somali national is tired of violence, and we have seen that when we talk to Somali elders, community leaders, as well as religious leaders. They all tell us they are tired of war and therefore, we are sure that it is not only the priority for the government, the president, and the cabinet, but it is also the priority for every Somali citizen," Ambassador Bwakirah pointed out.
He said the Africa Union has confidence in the ability of the new Somali administration to address the needs of Somali citizens.
"The prospects for the new cabinet and the new government to succeed are very good. On the political front, they are advocating for peace with everybody, including those who are outside the Djibouti peace process. Secondly, they have pledged to have good neighborhood relationship with neighbors. Thirdly, they are trying to mobilize humanitarian assistance for those populations which have been displaced internally or refugees who have gone outside Somalia. As you know, there has been a terrible drought and the government is trying to mobilize assistance for all its nationals," he said.
Ambassador Bwakirah said the new government needs to be supported in its effort to cater to its nationals.
"Fourthly, they are also trying to build a capacity, a capacity to mobilize internal resources to raise taxes, and so on. Last, week they signed an agreement, a bilateral memorandum of understanding with Kenya. Kenya is going to help them raise taxes for things being exported out of Kenya to Somalia. So I'm absolutely confident that they are moving towards the right direction," Ambassador Bwakirah pointed out.
Meanwhile, President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed sharply condemned over the weekend calls by terrorist al-Qaida group leader Osama bin Laden for Somalis and Muslims worldwide to fight Sheikh Sharif's new administration. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who headed the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia in exile, joined the western-backed peace process last year.
The al-Qaeda leader urged Somalis last week to rise up against President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who was elected as the country's first Islamist president in January in neighboring Djibouti after receiving the most votes from Somali parliamentarians meeting there.
Some political observers see the president now as having to face the daunting task of establishing a new security force and persuading Islamist fighters to back the government in the interests of peace.
Hard-line Islamic insurgent groups, including al-Shabab, have refused to recognize the new administration, describing it as a western stooge. They vow to continue their insurgency until eventually they can seize control of the country.
Described by Washington as a terrorist organization with close ties to al-Qaida, al-Shabab has embarked on a campaign of terror and violence in the capital, Mogadishu and other areas in the country, including seizure of the parliament building in Baidoa.
Somalia has been without an effective government since former President Mohammed Siad Barre was ousted in a coup d'état in 1991.