DOHA, Qatar (Caasimada Online) – Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has disclosed in an interview with Al-Jazeera that his country is working assiduously towards restoring peace in its northern breakaway region of Somaliland, amid growing tensions between local clan forces and the region’s authorities.
He also addressed a wide range of topics, including the fight against the al-Shabab armed group, the drought that has ravaged the country, and the issue of gender violence.
“We believe that unity is the only solution… but we don’t want this unity through violence, which makes matters worse,” Mohamud said, emphasizing the need for peace rather than violence in resolving the issue of Somaliland’s autonomy.
The recent violence in the region resulted from leaders of Somaliland’s Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn provinces announcing their intention to rejoin Somalia.
According to the UN, fighting broke out last month around LasAnod in Sool, killing at least 200 people and displacing more than 185,000.
In response to the crisis, Mohamud said that the government has been advocating for the cessation of violence and creating a space for dialogue.
‘All-out war’ against al-Shabab
In August 2021, Mohamud declared an “all-out war” against al-Shabab, which has been rebelling against the government since 2007.
The president believes that the only solution to deal with the group is through an all-out war.
He added that the ultimate goal of the fight against al-Shabab is to create a stable environment that will attract foreign investment and encourage Somalis to return to their homeland.
With support from the US army, African Union (AU) forces, and local assistance, the Somali military has regained control of large portions of territory from the armed group since launching its offensive last year.
The recapture of the port town of Harardhere, an al-Shabab stronghold on the Indian Ocean, in January 2022 was a significant victory for the government-led forces.
However, al-Shabab has retaliated with a series of attacks in the capital and other cities, including an attack on the mayor’s office in Mogadishu and a military base.
Mohamud has commended the African Union forces for their support, stating they were responsible for helping the Somali state grow and reach a level that provided space for society to develop.
The looming threat of famine in Somalia has been a significant concern since the country experienced five consecutive failed rainy seasons.
The UN has estimated that eight million people are food insecure. More than 700,000 could suffer famine between April and June 2023 if aid supplies are not increased.
In a recent report, UN experts stated that food insecurity remains “extremely critical,” but they no longer project famine.
Mohamud acknowledged that the threat of famine still looms, despite a reprieve.
Climate experts and humanitarian workers had warned that trends in recent weeks, including expectations of below-normal rainfall, are worse than those in 2011 when a quarter of a million people died in Somalia due to famine.
Violence against women
Mohamud also addressed the issue of gender violence in Somalia. Two UN reports in 2021 noted that there had been an “alarming” 80 percent increase in sexual violence in Somalia compared to 2019, mostly carried out by al-Shabab fighters.
However, the reports also highlighted that sexual violence was attributed to government security forces for at least 15 percent of verified cases.
Mohamud acknowledged that gender violence was a problem that needed to be addressed, and the government is working to deal with it.
He stated that the judiciary system had been rebuilt, and security forces and those who had committed such crimes were immediately taken to court.
However, the president also acknowledged that there were limitations to the justice system.