By Ambassador Francisco Caetano Madeira
Somalia has a new President, democratically elected by members of both houses of the national parliament in an open and fair electoral process witnessed by local and international observers.
I congratulate H.E. President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo on his election and wish him well, as he steers the country towards a brighter future.
Despite enormous and multiple challenges, Somalis have defied the odds and completed their parliamentary election. A new bicameral parliament is now in place as a result of an inclusive electoral process.
Although a one-person one-vote election was not attained this year, the foundation stone has been laid and Somalia is now on the path towards achieving universal suffrage by 2020.
As the Head of AMISOM, I congratulate the people of Somalia for this feat. I thank the country’s leadership for staying the course.
The successful conclusion of the presidential election heralds a new dawn for a country that, for too long, has been plagued by years of instability, devastating internal strife, cyclical drought, violent extremism and terrorism.
Having worked side by side with the Somali national security forces to secure the electoral process, AMISOM takes pride in this collaboration and the successes achieved.
It was a grueling but worthwhile journey that started in October 2016 and culminated in the presidential vote a few days ago.
The election of the president and members of parliament is one key step ahead in the long journey Somalia has embarked on. As the saying goes in my native language, “There are no short cuts to reaching the top of the palm tree.”
The road ahead is bumpy and the task is arduous, but the confidence and determination of the people of Somalia and their leaders to make true the pledges made during the electioneering period is a big encouragement. I have no doubt in my mind that Somalia will prevail and victory is assured.
Let 2017 be the year of firsts for Somalia. The opportunity presents itself for leaders to continue to work together in building a strong partnership between the government and the people of Somalia for the furtherance of mutual recognition and acceptance, reconciliation and national unity in an all-inclusive dialogue on power sharing, resource sharing, job creation, women and youth empowerment, national security and development.
AMISOM remains committed to a sound and focused collaboration with the people of Somalia in their quest for lasting peace and stability.
I cannot help but reminisce how far Somalia has come. As AMISOM marks 10 years in Somalia, this year, the positive developments in the country are there for all to see. The transformation is remarkable compared to a decade ago, when the AU mission first deployed in Mogadishu and armed militia gangs roamed the streets not only in the capital city but also in other major towns. Success has been registered, among others, in the health, construction and education sectors.
Despite the skepticism from naysayers, the ordinary Somali is reaping benefits from the progress made in the stabilization process.
The militants may not have been totally vanquished, but have been significantly degraded and their operations remarkably curtailed.
With a new government in place, one of our key priorities with the Somali national security forces is to intensify our offensive against the terrorists, especially in vast swatches of inhabited areas, where the terrorists have sought refuge. We have a watertight plan. We will work side by side with the Somali national security forces and will not relent until terrorists are significantly degraded and the war against violent extremism and terrorism is won.
However, the African Union is profoundly convinced that no matter how effective AMISOM may be, it will be difficult to achieve lasting and sustainable peace and security in Somalia, until the Somali national security forces is fully established and functioning. We will, therefore, continue to advocate for adequate support for Somali national security forces, not only for current and future joint operations with AMISOM, but also in helping build a capable security apparatus in the long term. To this effect, we will continue to insist on the need for a better coordinated, complementary and mutually reinforcing partner intervention in the security sector in Somalia.
In line with the envisaged drawdown of AMISOM military in 2018, AMISOM Police has been instrumental in the strengthening of policing structures throughout the country and are actively engaged in training local officers on policing.
We will continue to work closely with the national authorities and international partners in the promotion of a comprehensive approach to security, anchored on mutually reinforcing factors such as presence and adequate territorial expansion of government authority, effective state institutions and administration, democratic governance, distribution of humanitarian assistance and other essential requirements.
Lastly, provision of services such as healthcare, education and infrastructure will be essential in preventing conditions conducive for violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism.
I wish the Somali people a very successful 2017-2020 period.
* H.E Ambassador Francisco Caetano Madeira is the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia and Head of AMISOM