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Opinion

A bright future for Somalia is within touching distance

The war-torn country has made significant progress under a new government, but now needs international support.

Last Modified: 07 May 2013 13:43
Abdi Farah Shirdon

His Excellency Abdi Farah Shirdon is Prime Minister of Somalia.
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Somali band Waayaha Cusub recently headlined the Mogadishu Music Festival, the first event of its kind in more than 25 years, and the first time the anti-al-Shabaab group have performed in their home city [Phil Moore/Al Jazeera]


Mogadishu, Somalia -
When al-Shabaab terrorists attacked the Mogadishu courthouse on April 14, they were attempting to reverse the country's dramatic trajectory of progress. They failed. Although there was a tragic loss of life, the courts are re-opening and life is already back to normal.

I visited the courthouse shortly after the attack and spoke to survivors in hospital. Nowhere did I see defeat - or anything like it. Instead I saw the typical Somali resilience that is one of my people's greatest characteristics.

Al-Shabaab, though they do not yet understand this, belong to the past. Somalis have seen for themselves the horrors of their nihilistic foreign agenda and want no part of it. As a result, our enemies have seen their territory and morale, their fighters and finances diminish rapidly, as they acknowledged in a desperate open letter last month to Ayman al Zawahiri, their ideological puppet master in al-Qaeda.

Somali President Hassan Shiekh Mohamud
speaks to Al Jazeera 

The truth is that Somalia has turned a corner and there is no going back. I lead a reforming government that is restoring Somalia to the community of nations. Every week brings fresh evidence of the new normality: human rights legislation, diplomatic visits, security sector reform, sports clubs reopening, the extension of government to newly liberated areas, new businesses opening, economic recovery, piracy attacks declining, international partnerships strengthening, international relations expanding.

Accelerating normalisation

On April 13, the IMF recognised our government for the first time in 22 years. Notwithstanding the terrible tragedy of the lives lost a day later, this was an event of far greater importance for Somalia. While our enemies are becoming a thing of the past, economic recovery is the order of the day and the path of the future. The IMF's decision was a major milestone in the country's long road to economic recovery. It paves the way, once the country's arrears of approximately $352m are settled, for a resumption of full borrowing rights, the latest vote of confidence from the international community in our government and another key achievement in the accelerating process of normalisation.

Restoring partnerships with international financial institutions will play a huge role in restoring the economic stability and growth that have been denied to Somalis for far too long. We will be developing strong partnerships with the African Development Bank and the World Bank to sustain our growth. Our public financial management reforms, which are already being praised by partners such as USAID, will increase the confidence in the integrity and transparency of our systems. Corruption, the scourge of good governance, must be eliminated.

I described the administration I have the honour to lead as a reforming government because what we are undertaking is nothing less than the entire rebuilding of a state. Decimated by war for decades, Somalia has to recover from a generation of missed opportunities. How do we do that?

To begin with we have had to provide security, as vital for Somalis as the air we breathe. From the very beginning of this government's term in office last year, security has been our greatest priority and our greatest success. Recent headlines about al-Shabaab do not disguise the plain fact that they have been militarily defeated and reduced to a shrinking guerrilla force on the brink of extermination. We are in no way complacent about the threat they still represent, however, and are working overtime, supported by our brothers and sisters in the African Union's AMISOM force, to finish the job. We are achieving steady success in transforming a clan-based militia into a national defence force trained and equipped to fight a challenging counter-insurgency. An elite counter-terrorism unit has been established to dismantle and disarm terrorist cells in the capital.

We recognise that the best way to persuade young men that they have options in life that go beyond blowing themselves up and killing innocent Muslims in a perversion of our great faith is to provide them with jobs.

Abdi Farah Shirdon, Prime Minister

Security breeds stability

However successful we have been on the battlefield, we recognise that the best way to persuade young men that they have options in life that go beyond blowing themselves up and killing innocent Muslims in a perversion of our great faith is to provide them with jobs. And as any country with a Somali population will know, Somalis are a highly commercial people, imbued with a dynamic entrepreneurialism. Give Somalis security and they will thrive.
 
Security breeds stability. In Mogadishu we have already seen the joyful evidence of this in so many areas. Somalis are returning from the diaspora to rebuild their homes and help rebuild the country. They are opening new banks, airlines, factories, shops, supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, cafés and any other businesses that spring to mind in a city that until a few weeks ago did not even have a single petrol station. Livestock exports, the cornerstone of the agricultural economy, recently resumed for the first time in 22 years. Sport, once prohibited by al-Shabaab on pain of death, is back with a vengeance. The football season kicked off in the capital on April 19 and the Somali women's basketball team is also back on court. As one commentator put it, "this basketball team is one of the biggest inspirations to women, education, and humanity I've ever seen". Every day brings new such stories to inspire a nation.

As security and stability return, we must ensure the legal underpinnings of the Somali state are strongly built. Laws are the foundation of a functioning state, which is why my council of ministers has been sending a steady stream of legislation to parliament for debate and ratification - mandating reforms on human rights, security, police, local government and the judiciary. Our ambition is to restore the rule of law across a nation in which for too long the law was the barrel of a Kalashnikov. Laws on their own, of course, do not suffice. They must have robust, transparent and credible institutions that people trust, hence the comprehensive programme of judicial reform that is one of my government's greatest priorities. Attacks in Mogadishu will do nothing to check this reforming agenda or prevent us rebuilding the institutions of state - parliament, the judiciary and the executive - and establishing the rule of law, step by solid step.

Human rights, trampled over so mercilessly by our enemy and other miscreants, need to be respected. There must be an end to a culture of impunity, the legacy of a broken state that we have inherited. New legislation has been enacted and new institutions established to ensure that human rights abuses on the current unacceptable scale become a thing of the past. We are working with our partners in support of the Somali-owned Human Rights Roadmap to ensure that sexual violence against women is also consigned to the dustbin of history. It is an outrage against humanity, completely against Somali culture, and must be punished without mercy. I will settle for nothing less than radical human rights reform.

International support needed

What are our next steps? Now, more than ever, we need to consolidate the impressive progress we have made on so many fronts. On May 7, the eyes of the world will be on us as we co-host the Somalia Conference in London. Here we will share our plans for developing our armed forces, police and judiciary, together with the latest reforms of our public financial management systems. We will clearly set out our programme of nation-building and how we are redefining the balance of power between the centre and the regions, establishing the trust and confidence of local communities.

Our effort to reach out to the regions is well underway. During my recent "listening tour", I spoke to my brother and sister Somalis across the length and breadth of Somalia. I listened to the people's concerns, helped communities establish local administrations and signed landmark political, economic and security agreements. This outreach will continue.

For its part, the international community at the London Conference will be telling us how it plans to support us in these critical reforms, because the formidable challenges that stand before us cannot be achieved by Somalia alone.
International partners also need to adjust to the progress here. We are a sovereign government and partners need to treat us like one, supporting line ministries directly rather than through third-party NGOs. The old way of doing business undermines the government and limits our capacity. We look forward to serious and constructive discussions in London about the arrears process.

With concerted efforts terrorism, piracy and famine must be overcome for good. We must maintain the momentum that has delighted Somalis and astonished the world. There is a long way to go, but just look at how far we have come. No one dismisses us anymore as a failed state or the most dangerous country in the world. With the support of our friends and partners the progress must be made unstoppable. A bright future for Somalia is within touching distance.

His Excellency Abdi Farah Shirdon is prime minister of Somalia. An economist and businessman, he founded the Rajo Forum, a Somali civil society institution, and was appointed to the position of prime minister by President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud in October 2012.

Follow the Somali Prime Minister on Twitter: @SomaliPM

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The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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