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AU envoy says election of new president
puts Somalia on path to renewal

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Somalia has a chance to forge a new beginning after peaceful election of the new President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmajo) on Feb. 8, said the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) for Somalia, Francisco Madeira.

Madeira said in a commentary published by Kenya’s Daily Nation on Wednesday that election of a new president will enable Somalia to shake off its tragic past and chart a new beginning marked by peace, stability and development.

“The successful conclusion of the presidential election heralds a new dawn for a country that has been plagued by years of instability, internal strife, cyclical drought and violent extremism,” said Madeira.

Abdullahi Farmajo trounced the incumbent Hassan Sheikh Mohamud after a hotly contested race to become the new president of Somalia.

His victory was cheered by Somali citizens, regional blocs and the international community who expressed confidence in his leadership skills that were tested when he served as the country’s prime minister for eight months from 2010 to 2011.

The 54-year-old Farmajo holds a dual Somalia-U.S. citizenship and his reformist credentials will be crucial to restore political and economic institutions that crumbled during two and half decades of turmoil in the horn of African state.

Madeira hailed the peaceful transfer of power in Somalia against a backdrop of huge uncertainties about its future due to sectarian wars and under-development.

“Let 2017 be the year of firsts for Somalia. There is an opportunity for leaders to work together to spearhead reconciliation and national unity,” Madeira remarked, adding that dialogue on resource sharing, job creation, security, women and youth empowerment will be reactivated under the new president.

Madeira who is also the head of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said that an end to violent conflicts and terrorism in the country is possible if grassroots leaders and ordinary citizens rally behind the new president to annihilate the twin evils.

He stressed that African Union in partnership with the international community will continue to support counter-terrorism and peace building initiatives in Somalia.

“With a new government in place, one of our key priorities with the national security forces is to intensify our offensive against terrorists. We will not relent until the war against violent extremism is won,” said Madeira.

The Mozambican diplomat said the establishment of vibrant security apparatus in Somalia to deal with old and emerging threats is a key priority of the AU and its multilateral partners.

He added that the continental body will also support provision of critical services like education and health to eliminate conditions that would create a fertile ground for violent extremism to flourish inside Somalia.



Progress expected in Somalia after election: AU mission

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- The African Union envoy in Somalia said Wednesday that Somalia would make tremendous progress under the new leadership formed following the drawn-out electoral process that ended last week.

The Special Representative of the African Union Commission Chairperson (SRCC) for Somalia Francisco Madeira said President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmajo) has already spelt out issues his government would prioritize including security, tackling corruption and promoting peace and stability.

“He has made it his priority the need to ensure Somalia has functioning national security service, that is, the army, police and the intelligence,” Madeira said in a statement issued in Mogadishu.

“He has made it his priority the need to ensure soldiers are paid timely, receive uniforms and equipment needed to do their work properly,” he said, noting that Somalia is destined for brighter future following the successful electoral process.

Farmajo was declared the winner on Feb. 8 after two rounds of voting by the Somali Parliament in Mogadishu. The runner-up, incumbent President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, chose to withdraw from a third and final round.

Farmajo has expressed commitment to bringing government closer to the people and also to working with development partners to provide essential services, among them, roads, schools, health centers, markets and jobs for the youths.

The head of the mission described the electoral process as historic, adding that AMISOM was proud to be associated with the exercise.

Securing the electoral process was not without challenges, the main one being the threat posed by Al-Shabaab terrorists to disrupt the process and compromise its credibility, according to Madeira.

“We had an enemy that was sneaky, invisible and opportunistic. We had to deal with such an enemy and at the same time observe the most strict humanitarian law, human rights principles and human rights due diligence policy,” he said.

The AU supported the process by brokering peace between warring clans, organizing diplomatic engagements with the Somali leaders and securing the elections by working closely with the Somali national security forces.

Meanwhile, he acknowledged securing Somalia goes beyond having a national army and police, adding that other critical institutions must supplement the role of the security forces.

He said the AU mission’s focus will now be on supporting the government, mainly by helping build capacity for the Somali security institutions in preparation for the drawdown of African Union troops from Somalia, beginning October 2018.


Kenyans commend peaceful presidential polls in Somalia

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta Thursday commended Somalia for successfully holding a peaceful presidential election, saying it was proof that the Horn of Africa country was heading in the right direction.

Speaking in Nairobi when he received a special message from the new Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, Kenyatta said the conclusion of the electoral process and peaceful transfer of power will help stabilize the Horn of Africa nation.

"The way the election was conducted and the subsequent peaceful transfer of power has made us very proud," he said in a statement issued after the meeting.

The new president, Abdullahi Farmajo, who holds dual Somali-U.S. citizenship was declared the winner on Feb. 8 after two rounds of voting by the Somali Parliament in Mogadishu in an electoral process that took almost 18 months.

The runner-up, the incumbent, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, chose to withdraw from a third and final round of voting and congratulated the former PM on his victory.

President Kenyatta observed that the election held recently gave renewed hope to the Somali people and international community that Somalia was on the road to full recovery.

He said existing cooperation between Kenya and Somalia in a wide range of areas including peace and security would strength the bonds of friendship between the two countries.

President Mohamed’s special envoy, Abdisalam Omer, who is also the new foreign minister of Somalia, expressed appreciation for the efforts Kenya has continued to offer towards stabilization of Somalia.

Despite successful election, President Farmajo faces a formidable set of challenges in meeting the expectations of the Somali people who will expect the new federal government to respond to the country’s worsening drought crisis and avert another famine.

Three killed in mortar attack near presidential palace in Somalia

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- Three people were killed and four others were injured on Thursday when mortar shells landed at a residential area bordering the presidential villa in Mogadishu.

"We can confirm that three people have been killed, among them two children. Four others were injured when mortar shells landed at Warta Nabadda near Villa Somalia," police officer Abdullahi Ahmed told Xinhua.

Witnesses told Xinhua there were huge blasts in the village which also destroyed some housing structures.

"There were at least five mortar shells which landed at our village. I heard three people were killed," Muktar Nor said.

The latest attack comes as Villa Somalia was hosting a handover ceremony for the new president to assume the new residence, paving way for the inauguration of the new president on Feb 22.

Already, the government has announced it will suspend temporarily all domestic and international flights to Mogadishu airport because of the inauguration on Feb 22.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the latest attack which comes after the new president pledged during his campaigns to eradicate criminal networks and terror groups in Somalia.

UNHCR repatriates 4,753 Somali refugees in 2 weeks

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday that it has repatriated some 4,753 Somali refugees in Kenya by road between Jan. 16-31 before a court suspended the closure of the world’s largest refugee camp in northeast Kenya.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in its bi-weekly Update that in total as of Jan. 31, 44, 365 Somali refugees had returned home since December 8, 2014 when the UN agency started supporting voluntary return of refugees in Kenya.

“During the reporting period, 4,753 refugees were supported to voluntarily return to Somalia by road. Road convoys are organized from Dadaab to Dhobley on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays,” it said.

According to UNHCR, flight transporting returnees to Mogadishu remained temporarily suspended during the month of January owing to the security situation in Mogadishu during the current presidential election process in Somalia.

During the period under review, the UNHCR said it the Voluntary Repatriation Cross Border Meeting was held on Jan. 31 to deliberate on security situation in the 12 areas of return, the impact of drought on repatriation and reintegration process, cross-border peace building projects and enhancing provision of country of origin information as well as monitoring and management of cases of returnees with specific needs.

The UN refugee agency also said ten flights were organized during the period under review, transporting 1,030 non-Somali refugees to Kalobeyei at the Kakuma camp in northwest Kenya.

The latest report comes after Kenyan High Court blocked the government’s decision to shut down Dadaab refugee camp which mainly hosts Somalis, terming the move as unconstitutional.

High Court Justice John Mativo in his ruling termed the directive by Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery and his Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho as arbitrary, null and void.

Justice Mativo said the government’s orders to repatriate Somali refugees living in the world’s largest refugee camp were discriminatory and amounted to collective. He also described the orders as excessive, arbitrary and disproportionate.

The UNHCR has since called on Kenya to be flexible in terms of a return time frame in order to meet the different elements of the plan that was devised in 2016, citing a concern that rigid time frames would be difficult to meet.


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