The president of Somalia has said that “building state institutions” is the priority of his new government. Giving evidence to a joint session of the Foreign Affairs and Development Committees on 31 January 2013, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud praised European assistance for helping to bring about a smooth end to a transitional period that has lasted for more than a decade.
Mr Mohamud beat the incumbent Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in a run-off presidential vote in September 2012, the first presidential election on Somali soil since 1967. He has tried to reunite a country that is divided into a de-facto independent north and a south still partly controlled by the al-Shabab Islamist militia.
He insisted he wanted to build “one school, one health centre, one water well, one police station, one district administration” in every part of the country, claiming that this was the first time a Somali government had a proper development plan.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991 and a transitional government was set up in 2000. Years of fighting between rival warlords and an inability to deal with famine and disease have led to the deaths of up to one million people.
He said his government was concerned about the number of Somali young people becoming involved in piracy off the Horn of Africa, but said he wanted those young people held in captivity to be returned to Somalia. Many young Somalis arrested for piracy are currently in prison in countries including Kenya and the Seychelles.
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