Statement of H.E. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, President of the Federal Republic of Somalia Woodrow Wilson Center Speech

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Honourable Keith Ellison, Congressman, Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District 

Jane Harman, Director, President and CEO, Woodrow Wilson Center
Distinguished participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to present my appreciation to the Wilson Center for this invitation to discuss “Somalia one year on”. After all, it was Woodrow Wilson who once famously said: “it is just as hard to do your duty when men are sneering at you as when they are shooting at you.” Therefore, it is important to note that leading a country of Somalia’s nature is not an adventure or conventional in which one leader replaces another just by virtue of inheriting a functional office, state apparatus, systems, instruments and institutions amassed with relevant memory. Instead it is about inheriting a fragmented country where everything has to be started from the scratch, and firefighting in all fronts remains order of the day. On a positive note, although challenges are varied and more than expected, we have inherited a skeleton to build-on and new pages demonstrating a shift from the past, albeit empty. Every area or agenda reflected deserved an immediate attention and priorities with a sense of urgency to address. and I believe that after one year on the job, we are making slow but steady progress. And it is that progress that I am here to speak to you about today.

After one year in office, we have made some modest progress. We have achieved a level of normalcy; we have established a degree of governmental authority, created hope for governance in the population, My government had presented to the world a set of priorities and plans that is not only budgeted but illustrates the financial architecture that regulates the cash flow and provides mechanism for disbursement which levels the highest standards of transparency and accountability. I can say, Today’s Somalia has a plan for those who want to assist.

Greater achievements still lie ahead, but so too do greater challenges: the security situation is still fragile, the government is still heavily dependent on aid from the international community and many of our citizens are still unconvinced about the plans we have for the future. The latter is to be expected: after decades of civil war, dozens of external interventions and numerous transitions, the Somali people have earned the right to be sceptical.

It is the duty of my government to prove the sceptics wrong: to lay the foundations for a Federal Republic of Somalia that will be strong, stable and united, and in which the principles and practices of democracy are realised at all levels of government. We must build not only the Federal Member States, but also the connective tissue that binds them together in a peaceful, prosperous and vigorous union.

To achieve this, we must come to terms with three main challenges: we complete our Constitution in a way that reflects a national consensus on how we wish to govern ourselves. We must complete the establishment of our federal system, and we must advance the process of democratization through development of a multiparty electoral system that will serve to unite us, rather than to divide us.

1) The Constitution

The process of reviewing the Provisional Constitution has already begun. On 3 July 2013, Parliament passed legislation establishing an independent Constitutional Review and Implementation Commission and we must now move quickly to appoint the Commissioners who will lead this effort. But the challenge of constitution-making cannot be left to a small, popularly unelected body, no matter how competent. It will require months of consultation, negotiation and compromise to ensure that the new Constitution reflects the vision and aspirations of all parts of Somali society. And it must then be approved by Parliament and submitted to a nationwide referendum.

2) The Federal System

Our second major challenge is to develop, in concrete terms, a federal system of government. To this end, we must move urgently to establish the Boundaries and Federation Commission that will propose the demarcation of Federal Member States on the basis of political, economic and social considerations.

Meanwhile, my government has taken important steps to lay the political foundations for the federal system. In March this year, we signed an agreement with the authorities in Puntland, framing our shared commitment to implement a federal system of governance. We must now translate this agreement into reality, integrating our security forces, establishing modalities for resource and revenue sharing, and coordinating our policies and programmes.

In August, we signed an accord that establishes an interim Jubba Administration, which aspires to become a Federal Member State in line with the Constitution. Under the terms of the Jubba agreement, critical national assets will be restored to Federal Government control, our forces will be integrated, and we will work together to develop an inclusive, representative and permanent authority for the people of that region.

As we speak, leaders of the Federal Government including the Speaker and the elders from Bay and Bakool regions are meeting in Baidoa to promote reconciliation, discuss plans for a merger that would potentially lead to another regional administration. We welcome these local initiatives, and we urge those leaders to approach this initiative in a spirit of reconciliation, compromise and respect both for one another, and for the communities of neighbouring regions who may be affected by their actions and are watching their deliberations closely. As the Federal Government, we have a duty to ensure that such state-building efforts progress through dialogue, and do not undermine our parallel efforts to restore peace and security.

We have begun similar processes elsewhere in Somalia, establishing interim administrations in Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Hiiraan and Galgaduud regions. We have engaged the authorities in Galmudug and Himan iyo Heeb, as well as Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a, to solicit their views and commitment as we expand the process of peace building and state building across southern Somalia. In these regions, where the contours of potential Federal Member States have yet to emerge, we must proceed with great sensitivity. The process of federation can only succeed if it reflects and respects the will of the local people, not if it is imposed from the capital.

And lastly, thanks in large part to the good offices of the Government of Turkey, we have continued our dialogue with the authorities in Somaliland, underscoring our determination to preserve the unity of both the Somali state and the Somali nation, not by force and coercion, but through negotiation, mutual respect and understanding. Somali unity must be more than a rhetorical device: it must preserve and promote the dignity, equality and legitimate aspirations of all Somali citizens. By adhering to such principles, we are confident that our dialogue with Somaliland will not only continue, but will eventually bear fruit.

Democratisation

The third major challenge we face is democratisation. In the near term, this will involve the establishment of an Independent National Electoral Commission, and the design of a multiparty electoral system that should unite the Somali people – not divide us further.
This is not simply a mechanical process, to be measured against benchmarks and timelines. In order for these institutions to play their intended roles, the appointment of experienced, qualified Commissioners who represent the full diversity of views in our country will be just the first step in building public confidence. Equally important will be a process of genuine consultation, in which Government, Parliament and the Commissions complement one another’s efforts to ensure that all voices are heard. We have undertaken consultations in some parts of the country in support of the New Deal initiative. But in future we must work even harder to ensure that our national dialogue is even more open and inclusive.

Vision 2016

To ensure that we do not lose sight of these challenges, and that our core state-building and peace-building objectives are realised by the conclusion of my term of office in September 2016, I am launching a Presidential Initiative known as ‘Vision 2016’. Vision 2016 signals my government’s commitment to complete the Constitution, establish the federal system and prepare the ground for elections, and to ensure that we dedicate the leadership, determination, discipline and resources required for success.
I need not tell you that such things are more easily said than done – especially for a fragile state, ruined by the experience of civil war and statelessness. And as we roll out the targets and timelines for realisation of Vision 2016, we will be looking to our partners for support. We will need not only technical and financial assistance, but also political and moral support. We are a young nation, and an even younger federation, and so we will be looking to other nations of the world – especially the United States – to share with us your long and successful experience of federalism and constitutional government.

Service Delivery: we want to revolutionize the governments connection with our citizen, we need to transform the lives and enhance their well being, in the meantime, we have started a campaign for education, health and water. Our initiative, ONE Million Go Back to School Initiative, we are planning to open 72 schools, in 72 districts, hired 1,000 teachers across the country and planning to send 100,000 students to the schools at this year and ultimately the one million will be our destination.

Remittances
Before I conclude my speech, I feel obliged to raise the imminent closure of foreign bank accounts upon which Somalia’s remittance lifeline depends. Estimates place remittance flows to Somalia at over US1.3 billion per year – far more than humanitarian or development aid – and sustaining millions of people. Somali immigrants work very hard to earn legitimate income, which they save and send to their poorer, war-affected relatives throughout Somalia and East Africa – including hundreds of thousands who abide the squalor of vast refugee camps. This money finances consumption, trade and education in Somalia.

In the absence of a formal banking system, the movement of these funds is dependent upon Somali money transfer organisations. The scheduled closure, at the end of this month of UK-based accounts held with Barclays Bank, threatens to disrupt, if not destroy, this vital economic link.

We recognise that Barclays and other banks have legitimate concerns about money laundering and terrorist financing. We share those concerns and we recognise that we must urgently strengthen the regulatory framework for our finance and banking sectors, but we must do so in a way that does not punish those most in need. We urge Barclays to give this plan time to work, and to join our efforts to make remittance flows safe, transparent, and compliant.

Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my hope that policymakers in the United States will be sympathetic to our vision and help us achieve it. And here I am not just talking about aid: the sooner we can stand on our own feet the better. But I am talking about enhanced trade and cooperation. We want American companies to invest in Somalia and discover the talents of our people. We want our universities to collaborate with American Universities in teaching and research. We want investors to partner with us in making our land, our resources and our labour market more productive.

And as war and terrorism steadily become things of the past, we hope to open our doors to tourism: Somalia’s future looks as bright as its beaches and all of you are invited. We are under no illusion about the challenges implied by that invitation. Today, the country is over-militarized and under-policed and Al-Shabaab remains a menace. Together, we need to reverse it and I assure you that the situation is improving all the time, and that my government will leave Somalia in much better shape than we found it. So I challenge those of you in this room to pack some bags and come visit us in Somalia. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.

Thank you very much