Inside Story

Can Somalia’s leader contain the al-Shabab?

The insurgents are refusing peace talks so we ask how this affects the country’s efforts to attain peace after 20 years.

On Sunday Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was inaugurated amid tight security in the capital, Mogadishu.

The ceremony took place four days after Mahmoud survived an assassination attempt. The attack highlighted the serious security challenges he and the country face.

To say that the process was engineered by outsiders is stretching the truth because this was Somalia’s own process. For the first time in 20 years we held all of this processes inside Somalia. In 2000, 2004 and 2009 the election of presidents were held in Nairobi and in Djibouti [last two].”

– Abdurahman Hosh Jibril, Somalia’s minister of constitution

Somalia’s new leader has put reconciliation and security as a priority, saying that he is willing to start talks with the al-Shabab, the same group that claimed responsibility for trying to kill him last week.

Mohamud, who was elected by the country’s parliament on Monday, replaces the transitional government. Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991.

Meanwhile Kenyan soldiers have been fighting al-Shabab in Somalia’s port city of Kismayo. Kenya’s military says it has killed at least 50 fighters.

Kismayo is the group’s last stronghold in Somalia after the fall of Merca and Afmadhow in the Juba area.

It is part of a push by the African Union forces – which has nearly 18,000 troops fighting the al-Shabab – to recapture the city.

Kismayo is in the Jubbada Hoose province in southern Somalia, and is also a strategic target for Kenyan forces because it is a key supply route for al-Shabab. The port generates millions of dollars for the group.

Earlier Al Jazeera spoke to Sheikh Ali Mahmoud Rage, an al-Shabab spokesperson, about the new president’s initiative to start talks with the armed group.

The most recent process of selecting a new president had much more Somali engagement than have previous processes, and that’s positive. It is time however for the international community to increasingly step aside and let the Somalis themselves determine their own future.”

– David Shinn, the former US ambassador to Ethiopia

Among other things he said: “The fighting is going on near Afmadhow, south of Kismayo. This is the usual war between us and the Christian government of Kenya. They have suffered heavy losses. The mujahideen are ready to stop them if they try to advance.

“This is not the first time the Kenyan government occupies part of Somalia. We know they already occupy part of Somalia and people are suffering under them. Now they want also to take the Juba area of Somalia. So this is a policy based on occupation.

“The president you are talking about is not a man who came by the will of the Somali people or for their sake. He was brought by the West and Somalia’s neighbours. He was voted for by people with foreign passports. He has nothing to offer so there is no reason for us to talk to him.”

Inside Story asks: Will the new Somali leader succeed in his dealings with the al-Shabab?

Joining the discussion with presenter Hazem Sika are guests: Abdurahman Hosh Jibril, Somalia’s minister of constitution; David Shinn, the former US ambassador to Ethiopia and the former director of the Office of East African Affairs at the US state department; and Farah Maalim, the deputy speaker of the Kenyan parliament.

“It’s not entirely the Kenyan defence forces who are implementing the military objective of flushing out al-Shabab from the Jubaland area. The bulk of the fighting is by the Somalis themselves who have taken the brunt of casualties and are engaging them in all corners.”

Farah Maalim, the deputy speaker of the Kenyan parliament

“Many sources from the West also say I’m a creation of someone else. Others say this man is a mystery nobody knows him. I’m a Somali who was born here, brought up here, who [has been] living here in this country for the past two years, who is not a citizen of any other country. I’m a citizen of Somalia only.”

Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, Somalia’s new president, in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera