Accord key to end Jubaland stalemate, says Somali leader


XasanSheekh20130610Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud has denied relations between Kenya and Somalia had soured following the setting up of a new administration in Jubaland headed by Sheikh Ahmed Madobe.

In an interview with Nation’s Rashid Abdi, in Nairobi, President Hassan said his “special retreat” with President Kenyatta had put ties on a sure footing.

The Somali leader also hinted an accord was imminent to end the political deadlock over Jubaland. Excerpts from the interview:

Q: Mr President, there is a great deal of interest in the region over your current trip to Kenya. What was the purpose of the two-day retreat?

A: We had so many things to discuss – principally, security and the well-being of our people.

Q: There have been speculations that relations between Kenya and Somalia had become strained over the new administration in Juba and that your talks with President Kenyatta were aimed at ironing out differences over Jubaland. What is your response to these claims and have you moved any closer to an accord on the Jubaland issue?

A: Relations between Somalia and Kenya have never, at any time, deteriorated on the basis of what happened in Juba or any other place. Kenya and Somalia have always been on the same page and for the last 22 years and this is the place Somalis run to whenever faced with security problems.

The focus of the two governments remains on the long term issues of security and economic integration. We have established a Joint Cooperation Commission that will be discussing developmental issues.

Q: What, in your view, is the solution to resolving the Jubaland stalemate?

A: The Juba regions are part of Somalia’s regions. Of course, the people of Juba have all the rights and freedom to decide their destiny. But the question is that there is a federal government in place whose job is to empower the people so that the government and the people are all co-participants in the task of state-building and national reconciliation.

The Somali government is soon going to convene a national reconciliation conference to build trust and discuss how best to support these processes of building local administrations in Juba and all over Somalia.

Q: Do I take it then, from what you are saying that your government is not, in any way, going to acknowledge what has happened in Juba or agree, even on an interim basis, to allow the new administration to govern, albeit temporarily?

A: There are discussions going on about this issue. We are very hopeful good results will come out of them and this will be communicated in due course.

Q: You have just had a meeting with the Puntland President, Mr Abdirahman Farole. Was this just a courtesy call or was it part of the effort to resolve the Jubaland problem, given the fact that Mr Farole is believed to be keen to be seen as a key mediator?

A: President Farole has been in Nairobi for some days on a different mission and prior to my arrival. Both of us decided it will be good to meet since I was here too. President Farole is one of the founders of the Federal Government and the two of us share many interests and concerns. Of course, there are some issues we disagree about it, but, on the whole, there are many areas of collaboration.

We see our continued engagement and dialogue as very important on a variety of key national issues and areas. The President will hopefully visit Mogadishu after his vacation and we hope to continue our discussions at a technical level.

Q: Finally, Mr President, you also discussed the issues of refugees with the Kenyan authorities. Can you tell us briefly what the outcome was?

A: Since coming into office, I have had a number of discussions with the Kenyan government on the issue of refugees – first with former President Kibaki and now with President Kenyatta. We have resolved to hold a tripartite conference on the refugee issue in the month of August (2013) that will bring together the two governments and the UNHCR.

We hope a clear roadmap and plan will be agreed up on to facilitate the voluntary return of Somali refugees to their country. This will be done in strict compliance with all the international conventions governing these matters.

Rashid Abdi is the religious editor, Daily Nation,

Source: Daily Nation – Kenya