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UN Monitoring Group is against peace in Somalia, says President Sharif

MOGADISHU, Somalia July 18, 2012 (Garowe Online) - The president of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has accused the U.N. Monitoring Group and its coordinator Mr. Matt Bryden of being “against peace in Somalia,” Garowe Online reports.

President Sharif attended a well-organized ceremony Wednesday in Mogadishu, which was organized by supporters of the TFG President’s bid for re-election to win the Somali presidential seat next month. Supporters described the televised event as the launch of President Sharif's re-election campaign.

The event, which was broadcast live on London-based Somali satellite TV station Universal TV, was attended by TFG officials, parliamentarians, traditional elders, civil society, poets, and the media.

A number of Somali traditional elders who spoke at the event publicly declared their full support for President Sharif to be re-elected as Somali President after the transitional period ends on 20 August 2012.

One Mogadishu elder said: “I want to greet the President of the Somali Republic. I will not say the Somali Federal Republic because I don’t know ‘federal’. We the traditional elders fully support President Sharif to win the election next month.”

A group of Somali traditional elders have been gathered in Mogadishu since May. The elders are tasked with nominating members to the National Constituent Assembly (NCA), which is to provisionally adopt the new Somali Federal Constitution agreed among the Somali political leaders. Moreover, the elders are supposed to nominate members of the new and smaller 225-seat Somali Federal Parliament, in accordance with the new constitution.

President Sharif’s political campaigning in association with some traditional elders in Somalia could throw into question the neutrality of Somali elders to nominate MPs to Somalia’s new Federal Parliament, who will elect the next Somali President on 20 August 2012, in accordance with the UN-facilitated Roadmap peace process to end the transition.

Minister of the Presidency, Mr. Abdirahim Abikar, Interior and National Security Minister Mr. Abdisamad Moallim Mohamud, and Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Mr. Hussein Isse Arab, briefed the audience ahead of President Sharif's speech, along with poets, traditional elders, and a former female Deputy Education Minister during the reign of former Somali President Gen. Mohamed Siyad Barre.

‘Somalia needs leadership’: President Sharif

The TFG leader described in positive terms his brief term as chief of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), the parent organization of today’s Al Shabaab terrorist militia.

President Sharif said he was “appointed without knowing” to head one of Mogadishu’s Islamic courts in 2003. He said he "could not refuse the task", even though he lacked fighters and funding.

The ICU swept to power in Mogadishu in June 2006 after violently overpowering Mogadishu’s notorious warlords who had laid to waste the Somali capital since the collapse of central government in 1991.

“Allah says in the Qur’an that any country or people who do practice injustice will suffer,” said President Sharif, adding that as president he will support social justice and equality, and legal justice through the country’s courts, adding that the courts “require educated judges, lawyers and personnel.”

The TFG leader suggested that Somalia needs a new leader with experience and who can bring results, including securing Mogadishu from the grip of Al Shabaab terrorist group. He described the public's needs for basic services in security, social and economic sectors.

"There is hope in Somalia today compared to past times. We must build on this progress," he said.

Monitoring Group is anti-peace: President Sharif

President Sharif spent half of his one-hour speech to discuss the recently leaked report by the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group, and he launched a clear attack against Monitoring Group Coordinator Matt Bryden.

“Matt Bryden is not ashamed to suppor the division of Somalia into two countries. Matt Bryden has a track record of being against the restoration of peace in Somalia,” said President Sharif to the crowd’s applause.

Responding to Monitoring Group allegations of corruption, President Sharif said: “This government is ready for transparency. If any money is missing, I am ready to resign and to be taken to Guantanamo Bay,” President Sharif joked.

The TFG president expressed his disappointment that the Monitoring Group report was leaked at such a time when Somalia is ending the transitional period for the first time since 2000.

“This Monitoring Group report was timed to coincide with the end of transition period in order to discredit the TFG,” said President Sharif.

Referring particularly to the Monitoring Group’s mention of a $3million donation from Oman Government, President Sharif said: “All that money was used to pay off government expenses, including loans, security forces and parliament.”

He added: “Every TFG official is in personal debt because they borrow money to keep the government functioning. Even the soldiers, sometimes the salary is late or the salary does not come, and the soldiers continue to work because they are defending their nation and their dignity.”

Joint Financial Management Board (JFMB)

President Sharif spoke mockingly of the proposed Joint Financial Management Board, which aimed to manage TFG funds with transparency and accountability.

President Sharif said: “We asked: ‘What is the job of the Joint Financial Management Board?’ They said the JFMB will manage TFG revenue from sources like Mogadishu port and airport. So we asked: ‘Do Somalis manage international funding to Somalia?’ They say ‘No. But we will start with managing Somali assets.’ So can we accept unknown persons to manage our funds? Revenue is the basis of government and we cannot allow others to manage our funds.”

Political analysts say President Sharif’s scathing attacks on Monitoring Group and its coordinator, Matt Bryden, is his first public remarks responding to the Monitoring Group’s leaked report.

Mr. Matt Bryden, a Canadian national, has worked in Somali affairs for years and has been principal in preparing Monitoring Group reports presented to the U.N. Security Council.

Somalia observers accuse Mr. Bryden of being a vocal and active supporter of Somaliland’s unilateral declaration of independence in 1991. Somaliland has not been internationally recognized as an independent country, however.

President Sharif said: “We believe that the U.N. Security Council does a good job, but the Monitoring Group and Matt Bryden is wrong approach for Somalia’s peace and development.”

The TFG president's focus on the Monitoring Group report is indicative of political and international pressure being exerted upon TFG leaders, according inside sources in Mogadishu. Earlier this week, TFG Prime Minister Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas issued a press statement condemning the Monitoring Group report.


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