Somali president offers amnesty to pirates

Agence France Presse

Published — Thursday 28 February 2013

Last update 28 February 2013 3:57 pm

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

MOGADISHU: Somalia’s president has offered an amnesty to young pirates in a bid to end attacks off the Horn of Africa nation’s coast as he seeks to rebuild the war-torn country, he told AFP.
“We have been negotiating with the pirates indirectly through the elders,” said President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. “Piracy has to end.”
Mohamud, elected by lawmakers six months ago, said that he wanted to offer an “alternative means of earning a living” to young Somalis who have taken up the gun to join pirate gangs.
However, Mohamud said that the amnesty was not open to pirate kingpins — those who take the vast majority of the profits from the attacks — some of whom are wanted by Interpol.
“We are not giving them amnesty, the amnesty is for the boys,” he said, speaking on Wednesday in an interview at Villa Somalia, the Italian colonial art-deco palace in war-ravaged capital Mogadishu.
Somalia has been battered by conflict since 1991 but a new UN-backed government took power in September, ending eight years of transitional rule by a corruption-riddled administration.
Large parts of the country have been carved up by rival militias who have developed autonomous regions that pay little, if any, heed to the weak central government.
Many of the most notorious pirates, who launched attacks far across the Indian Ocean earning millions of dollars in international ransoms, are based along the northern coastline of the semi-autonomous Puntland region.
The amnesty comes amid a sharp drop in the number of pirate attacks in Somalia, which are at a three-year low, thanks to beefed up naval patrols and teams of armed security guards aboard ships in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
However, while the pirates have lost ground, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) still warns that Somalia’s waters remain extremely high-risk.
Seven boats and 113 hostages are still held by Somali pirates, according to the IMB, while some pirates have turned to land-based kidnapping and banditry instead.
But piracy is only one of many challenges Mohamud faces in seeking to rebuild his devastated nation, with Al-Qaeda linked Shabab insurgents vowing to topple his government.
He plays down an assassination attempt made just two days after his election, noting that “millions of Somalis” died during the country’s two-decade civil war.
“There is a time when this (life) has to end,” said Mohamud, a relatively small man with a round face, a friendly smile, a small beard and a moustache.
The former professor, who set up Somalia’s first private university during the civil war, wants to build up a new state to replace the current one wrecked by war.
“This is still a failed state and we have to put the foundations in place,” he told AFP, adding that when he came to power he found that the “state was bankrupt, there was no money left at the treasury.”
-- “Very, very limited capacities” --
Mohamud, taking over from predecessor Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, whose government was widely condemned for rampant corruption, said that when he came into office, some security forces had not been paid for five months.
“They were close to coming onto the streets and looting, their officers told me,” he said.
In a nation ranked as one of the world’s most corrupt, Mohamud recounts how shortly after his surprise election a group of businessmen offered him $200,000 (153,000 euros) to spend as he wished.
“I asked them if they would have a problem putting this money into the central bank,” he said. “This gesture was very, very important.”
That action was so talked about that other businessmen followed suit and more than a million dollars were donated into the central bank, he said, taking visible pride in “this very, very important decision.”
In stark contrast, any mention of the widely condemned sentencing to a year in prison of a woman who alleged security forces had raped her, as well as the jailing of a journalist who interviewed her, puts him ill at ease.
“It hurts me a lot when I hear that a Somali woman has been raped,” he said, pointing out that he has “fought and advocated for women’s rights.”
While refusing to criticize the court’s decision to sentence the woman, he said somewhat apologetically he was “running a state with very, very limited capacities.”
Sitting next to the national flag — a white star on a blue background — he said he wanted to build a real state, even if the vast majority of the country is controlled by militia forces or Islamist fighters.
Areas under government control were wrested off Shabab extremists by a 17,000-strong African Union force, which fights alongside Somali troops and other pro-government militia forces.
“For the first time, this is a government that wants to bring back together Somalia’s fragmented society,” he said, appealing for international aid to be coordinated with the government.
Mohamud, who says he has never fired a rifle in a country awash with weapons, has also asked for the lifting of an international embargo on arms sales to his government.
“We cannot build capable security forces unless the arms embargo is lifted,” he argued.
United Nations officials said Wednesday the Security Council is set to ease the two decade-old arms embargo against Somalia.
The measure is likely to be part of a council resolution renewing the mandate of the AU force, which should be passed on Wednesday next week.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: The Kingdom has taken the right approach to counter the operations of terrorists groups, which includes cutting off their funding, according to several leading experts.This comes in the wake of Saudi Arabia blacklisting on Thursday 12 people...
RIYADH: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MCI) won the award for providing the Best E-Government Service among Gulf Cooperation Council countries.The award, “Best E-Government Service” for the E-Commercial Registration, was given during the four...
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Education and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) have signed several agreements to boost science and technology teaching at schools.The agreements were inked by Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad Al-Saud, p...
RIYADH: The Kingdom and Britain signed an executive agreement on Wednesday in Riyadh on medical training for Saudi postgraduate students on specialized subjects.The agreement was signed by Health Minister Khalid Al-Falih and Minister of State for Com...
JEDDAH: Of youths under the age of 20, 5 to 10 percent suffer from diabetes, said Vice President of the Saudi Society for Children’s Medicine and head of the third annual conference for diabetes patients Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al-Toweim.The two-day...
TAIF: Voters taking photographs inside election booths would have their votes disqualified for the municipal council elections taking place on Dec. 12, according to Taif’s election committee.They would also be excluded if they use their mobile phones...
ISLAMABAD: Jamia Ashrafiya President Sheikh Fahad Rahim has lauded the role of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman as well as the Muslim World League (MWL) in serving the cause of Islam and uniting Muslims around the world.He was speaking d...
JEDDAH: The Memon Welfare Society (MWS) felicitated meritorious students from the community at its fourth annual awards distribution ceremony here recently.Abdullah Yousuf was the first to come and take his prize for securing top position in Grade 8...
RIYADH: A Filipino worker claims that he has been waiting for over a year for his former company to pay him SR68,880, which is his end-of-service benefit after leaving the company last November and returning home.Bukhari Nor Cali, 59, from Mindanao,...
JEDDAH: Adults are often the last ones to know when a child is bullied at school. However, parents or school authorities should step in if any child is being beaten, threatened or taunted by another pupil. A high school boy was beaten up and harassed...
RIYADH: Six winners — five authors and a researcher from scientific and educational institutions — have been announced as winners in the King Abdul Aziz Book Award this year.The committee for the King Abdulaziz Book Award said the works of the winner...
RIYADH: The Kingdom now has 67 female lawyers out of 3,400 in the country, according to a report released by the Justice Ministry.The report said that 65 male lawyers were registered at the beginning of the Islamic year on Oct. 14, and four female la...
JEDDAH: Jeddah police are investigating the theft and signature forgery of six checks from the Jeddah municipality headquarters.The Anti-Forgery Department was assigned to locate all information related to the check forgery cases. Local media estimat...
MAKKAH: Certain areas of Makkah witness a regular scene in the morning of a number of men waiting for car-washing work and make some money.After their morning duties, these men leave for other work as plumbers, electricians and rock breakers in mount...
RIYADH: A ‘Diabetes Detection’ campaign has been launched under the National Diabetes Prevention and Control Program of the Ministry of Health (MoH).The MoH has joined efforts with the Al-Abeer Medical Group, KIMS Sun City medical centers and the AXA...

Events & Exhibitions

Stay Connected