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New Opportunity Exists For Somalia Reconciliation

"New Opportunity" Now Exists for Reconciliation in Somalia

Somalia's Transitional Federal Government now has a "new opportunity" to promote peace and reconciliation and bring the communities in Somalia together, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer told the Voice of America November 6.

In an interview with VOA's Somali Service, Frazer said the recent resignation of Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi presents "an important new dynamic in Somalia and one that we all have to take very seriously. ... We hope that a very capable person, really someone who can bring the communities together, will be selected" to succeed Gedi.

Asked to comment on Gedi's resignation, Frazer said: "I think Prime Minister Gedi took a very commendable step, a very honorable step, in that he has removed himself so that someone can come in who can bring the communities together. ... We should all applaud the prime minister's willingness to move aside in the national interest." She termed it "the right thing to do at the right time."

Asked what President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and the Somali parliament should do to get a prime minister who will have the confidence of both the president and the international community, Frazer said: "It would be important to have the confidence of the United States and the international community and the parliament, but, most importantly, you need someone who has the confidence of the Somali people. That's the most important thing," she stressed, "because, again, this prime minister has to be the key to a national reconciliation.

"We've said over and over and over again that Somalia's future -- a future of stability -- depends on reconciling the various communities, whether they are political communities, ideological, the different clans, civil society groups, intellectuals, religious authorities, all [of those groups] need to come together. So we need a prime minister who can bring those communities together, and that is what the United States is looking for."

Asked what characteristics would be appropriate for the new prime minister, Frazer said, "That's going to be President [Abdulahi] Yusuf's choice." She quickly added, however, that "the main characteristic is someone who sees the national interest, someone who is committed to the transitional federal charter and a transition in 2009, someone who has capability, political skill, and certainly someone who can embody that spirit of nationalism that he's operating and working in the interests of the country as a whole, not in his personal interests or even in his clan's interest, but in the interest of Somali people."

When asked about how long it will take before the Somali federal forces can stand on their own, Frazer reminded the interviewer that Somalia has been without a government for more than 16 years. "Now the Transitional Federal Government is trying to put in place the institutions to have a transition to an elected government by 2009. Ethiopian troops have not been there for 16 years. So to blame the Ethiopian troops is a faulty analysis and it takes the responsibility away from Somalis themselves. We hope that Ethiopian troops can leave as soon as possible and that soon as possible is the deployment of AMISOM [African Union Mission to Somalia] forces, and we are trying to get more in. We hope that Burundians will deploy sometime this month."

Asked what the United States is doing to assist others in providing necessary troops to Somalia, Frazer said: "The Burundians have repeatedly said they want to deploy to Somalia and they are committed to doing so. ... We have provided about $19 million so far to try to assist the countries Uganda and Burundi.

"We are training two battalions of Burundians, we've procured equipment for those battalions, and we will assist in their deployment. And so we are working with other governments. Secretary Rice has also reached out to Nigerian President [Umaru] Yar'Adua to talk about the deployment of Nigerians, as well as President [John] Kufuor, with Ghanaians. So we are working. We also need to do more with the United Nations and get the United Nations involved," she said.


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