Mogadishu, 27 October 2014: President of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), HE Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia and Head of AMISOM, Ambassador Maman S. Sidikou, along with senior military officers from the Somali National Army (SNA) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) today briefed the media on the progress of Operation Indian Ocean. Also present were Mohamed Ali Hagaa – State Minister for Defence and Mohamed Ismail Shurie – Deputy Minister for Public Works and Reconstruction.
The Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, General Abdirisak, firstly provided a map brief that clearly indicated the catastrophic loss of territory,that al-Shabaab had suffered between the beginning of Operation Eagle in January 2014 and the continuing military offensive, Operation Indian Ocean, which commenced in September 2014.
General Abdirisak gave the background to the current situation: “The first operation – Operation Eagle – began in March this year and resulted in 10 significant towns being liberated. The second operation, Operation Indian Ocean, has focused on Somalia’s strategic coastal towns. Eight towns, including the al-Shabaab strongholds of Barawe and Adale, have been liberated so far.” He then went on to explain the strategy behind the selection of towns, chosen to disrupt al-Shabaab resupply routes and then to isolate each pocket of resistance for detailed destruction. He noted also that Koday had been recovered only 48 hours earlier and that further towns could be expected to fall imminently.
The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Elmi, then spoke, offering thanks to the soldiers of both the SNA and AMISOM, who he described as ‘African brothers’. He also noted the need for continued efforts to build the capacity of the Somali National Army and the Somali security forces as a whole to meet the demands of the future as Somalia stabilises after years of lawlessness.
The AMISOM Force Commander, Lieutenant General Silas Ntigurirwa echoed General Elmi’s comments and thanked the international community for its support.
The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia and Head of AMISOM, Ambassador Maman S. Sidikou, then addressed the media: “Following the adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 2124 in November last year, additional troops and other resources were deployed in January this year to bolster AMISOM. Because of this we have been able to launch fresh operations.
“Just 48 hours ago, Somali forces, with only logistical and surveillance support from AMISOM and our UN partners, liberated the southern port city of Koday, one of last few natural seaports that was still controlled by al-Shabaab. This further denies al-Shabaab the convenience of a sea-port to rearm themselves, as well as use it as an entry and exit point for foreign fighters. Other smaller but significant villages like Bula Haji near Koday, have also been liberated in the Lower Juba region.
“As of now, the only significant towns still under al-Shabaab control are Jamaame, Jilib, Buale and Sakow in Middle Juba Region, Diinsor in Bay region and Bardere in Gedo region. There are also a few other smaller towns like El-Dere in Middle Shabelle.
“Let me assure our Somali brothers and sisters that, working with the Federal Government and our international partners, we will not leave any stone unturned in the fight against al-Shabaab. We are confident that, working together, we will overcome the al-Shabaab menace.
“AMISOM is happy to report an improved security situation in the capital Mogadishu and generally in areas under the Federal Government’s control. There have been a few desperate attacks, mainly in retaliation for the massive losses suffered by the insurgents during our various operations. Attempted attacks on Parliament and Villa Somalia were successfully dealt with by AMISOM, working with Somalia’s national security forces. We remain vigilant and condemn all attacks on innocent Somali citizens.
“Finally, let me take this opportunity to thank the people and Federal Government of Somalia, and in particular, the leadership of the Federal Government for the positive gains we are recording and I look forward to continuing to work closely with them to achieve even more.”
The President then addressed the media. He began by recognising the efforts of the soldiers of the SNA and AMISOM: “I wish to thank the officers and men of the Somali National Army and the AMISOM forces for their efforts. We owe them a debt of gratitude. They have risked their lives in the name of a free and democratic Somalia.
“In the case of our AMISOM brothers, they have come from Djibouti, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda to fight for their fellow Africans in pursuit of freedom. In some cases, they have given their lives. They deserve our respect, our thanks, our support and our praise. We will not forget what you have done for us.” The President also noted the support provided by the international community.
The President went on to describe the current state of al-Shabaab: “Violent extremism is a global problem and I am pleased to note that assistance is coming from around the globe to address the problem here in Somalia. Here in Somalia, as we are all well aware, that global problem manifests itself in the form of the terrorist group, al-Shabaab.
“Al-Shabaab has been battered relentlessly and has lost much in terms of men, equipment, weapons and criminal funding opportunities. But it has not been annihilated. It has scuttled off and is now hiding in dark areas, out of sight for the moment, but desperate to reassert itself.
“It will attempt to reassert itself. It will try to make itself seem still potent, still relevant, still intimidating. It will seek to grab the headlines with horrible one-off attacks in populated areas.”
The President made particular note of the recent relief of Barawe, which he visited soon afterwards: “The fall of Barawe marks a turning point in the fight against al-Shabaab. Barawe was al-Shabaab’s last major stronghold: it used to appear regularly in al-Shabaab media as an example of the quality of life one could expect under al-Shabaab.
“I went to Barawe a few days ago and I spoke with the people who lived under al-Shabaab. They described a place where al-Shabaab gunmen extorted money –calling it ‘zakat’. They talked about a place where young men were forcibly recruited as soldiers and young women as wives, where the internet was banned and where the water was dirty and undrinkable, where electricity was reserved only for al-Shabaab themselves. The reality of life under al-Shabaab was terror and hunger, brutal oppression and a desperate lack of basic resources.
“But Barawe is now in the hands of the Federal Government of Somalia.
“When I visited last week, the people danced – they weren’t allowed to do that under al-Shabaab. They sang songs – they weren’t allowed to do that under al-Shabaab either.”
The President continued by noting the efforts of the Federal Government to provide immediate support to newly recovered areas such as Barawe: “The Federal Government is working hard to deliver aid to the people of Barawe, and El-Buur, and Bulomareer and Jalalaqsi and all the other towns that have been liberated as part of Operation Indian Ocean. Food and water are priorities, as is restocking hospitals and clinics that were stripped bare in the retreat. So too is bringing security, reconstruction and justice.”
The President then spoke on the changing security challenge that faces Somalia: “Al-Shabaab have lost all their territory: so now they must wage war on our people and on our people’s minds. But the security forces are getting stronger day by day, not just the Somali National Army, but the police as well and soon we hope to field a coastguard to protect our rich maritime resources. Our intelligence service works closely with neighbouring countries and international organisations and has had a number of major successes against the terrorists.
“There are ways that every man, woman and child can fight the terrorists as well: and none of those ways involve picking up a gun. We can, instead, pick up the phone and report suspicious behaviour and criminal activities to the authorities. That might mean we report our neighbour or our cousin, our own brother or sister, even our own son or daughter – but we will be saving them, as well as saving the lives of innocent Somalis.
“We all have a part to play in this new phase of the battle against the terrorists. We all have a responsibility as citizens of Somalia.
“There is something else every citizen can do: we can simply live our day to day lives: go to school, go to work, go to the café and meet with friends and listen to the radio or watch TV. Or, like the people of Barawe, we can dance or sing a song. That is the greatest form of resistance we can offer to the terrorists – and it is the one they fear the most. We can refuse to give into the fear they hope to create.”
The President concluded by giving his vision of the future: “Somalia has a proud past and great potential – if we choose to exploit it.I see the future prosperity of Somalia as being linked to our vast coastline: on the sea, in the sea and under the sea. We command a strategic location on the world’s shipping lanes.
“We could have a highly successful fishing industry. We are working with international partners to develop the mineral resources that lie under the seabed.
“For this vision to come into being, we first of all need security and that is something we build together. Somalia could be a very prosperous country – if we work hard and we work together.”
The President concluded the briefing by touring a military hospital where he met and spoke with a number of SNA soldiers who had been wounded while fighting al-Shabaab as part of Operation Indian Ocean.
For more information please contact:
Shador Haji Mohamud
Senior Press Officer
Office of the Somali President
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