“Al-Shabab is literally defeated now, they are on the run,” said Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud at a press conference in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, but did not provide a firm timeline for the withdrawal of international troops from the troubled east African state.
Mr. Mohamud said Somali and international troops had disrupted the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabab militia’s command and control structure and training centres and that his government was focused on rebuilding his war-torn nation. “Security is the first and foremost priority”, he said, “Followed by the judicial system and public finance management. A national stabilisation plan has already been designed and is in place”.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said Ethiopian troops deployed in Somalia would remain at their stations until they were replaced by African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).
“We want to assure that al-Shabab will never come back,” Mr. Hailemariam said, “Until then, the Ethiopian forces will remain”.
Somalia has been riven by civil war since the collapse of the dictatorship of Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. In September this year, a U.N. monitored transitional government gave way to a permanent Central government headed by Mr. Mohamud, who was elected by a nominated Parliament. In October, Somali and Amisom troops took control of Kismayo, Somalia’s third largest city and a vital al-Shabab base.
Since then, the national government and international community have spoken repeatedly of a “window of opportunity” for stability in Somalia.
Mr. Mohamud said his new government is in the process of fundamentally reconfiguring the Somali state by building local and regional administrations and creating a legal framework to empower these federal institutions. “There has always been a hard, centralised government system in Somalia,” he said, “We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past.”