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Somalia's New Government to Hold First Cabinet Meeting over the Weekend

By Peter Clottey
Washington, D.C
27 February 2009

Somalia's new Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke will hold his first cabinet meeting tomorrow (Saturday) after relocating from Djibouti to the capital, Mogadishu. On his arrival the new prime minister demanded an end to the escalating violence that has so far left over 80 people dead and scores injured. Sharmake said his government's top priority will be to improve the security situation in the country as well as redouble reconciliation efforts with opposition groups. The new prime minister who returned to the capital Mogadishu yesterday (Thursday) for the first time in decades called for a dialogue with Islamic hard line groups, including al-Shabaab to end the escalating violence. Abdirashid Irro is the minister for Commerce in the new cabinet. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the new government is hopeful of improving the unstable situation in the country.

"We came here to start our business as a government and as a council of ministers and our first meeting will start on Saturday. And hopefully the prime minster will bring the agenda, but our vision is that we came here to start a dialogue and reconciliation and continue the peace process with our opposition. We will open dialogue with the opposition inside Somalia and outside the country," Irro noted.

He said the government would also rebuild state institutions to make them more effective.

"We will also make a capacity, building of institutions like the police, judiciary, and prisons and so on. So, we are really very hopeful that we will improve the situation," he said.

Irro said there was need to hold discussions with those strongly opposed to the new administration in order to chart a new course.

"It is very important and very essential that we will continue the dialogue and discussions with our oppositions and we will like to accommodate every Somali citizen, and we will like to invite them to join the pace process. As a government if someone decides not to be part of the peace process and start trying to destroy it we have our armed forces and we will defend ourselves and the rights of our people," Irro pointed out.

He welcomed the news that some of the hard line groups have accepted to end the fighting in the capital, Mogadishu.

"Really some of them who were fighting yesterday have accepted to stop the fighting and join the peace process. But I know that still there are people out there like al-Shabaab who are against our government and they will like to continue the fighting. But as a government we are still inviting them to join the peace process. You know Somalia has been a failed state for the last 19 years and the people are exhausted of the violence and so we will like to tell the fighters that they should stop the fighting and the bloodshed," he said.

Irro said the new unity government would want the participation of all Somalis.

"Our government will want to turn the previous conflict into cooperation and we will also like to recruit our security forces and we will like to make our public financing like addressing corruption. We will also like to be self- dependent and ensure everybody that we will change the previous behavior of the failed policies of the previous TFG (Transitional Federal Government). We will like to be one team of one nation of one leadership," Irro pointed out.

He said the new government needs the cooperation of all Somalis in its effort to rebuild the country after over 18 years of ineffective government.

"Our message is that as a government we cannot do anything unless we get the support from the ordinary people. So we are requesting all the Somali citizens wherever they are that they will support the government and that they will support the peace process and to take part in the reconstruction of their country," he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shermarke, who was recently picked by President Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed two weeks ago, arrived in the Somali capital amid tight security by African Union peacekeepers and government forces after deadly fighting with insurgent fighters in the past two days. The clashes left at least 15 civilians dead and scores seriously injured.

The Somali government is relocating back to Mogadishu after the election of the new president and the appointment of his prime minister in neighboring Djibouti where Somali legislative body had been holding its sessions after Baidoa, the parliament seat, was recently captured by radical Islamic hard line group al-Shabaab.

Described by Washington, as a terrorist organization, al- Shabaab has refused to recognize the new administration vowing to eventually take over the country and implement the sharia law.

But some Somali parliamentarians have voiced their strong opposition to the relocation, contending that both the president and the prime minister would be putting themselves in danger after recent attacks by Islamic insurgents who promised more attacks on the new government, which they describe as puppet of western countries.

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