Yesterday I covered a conference taking place in Istanbul that is aiming to shape the future of Somalia, probably the world’s most notorious failed state. I interviewed Somalia’s Prime Minister, Abdulweli Mohamed Ali, and the UN Special Representative to the country, Dr Augustine Mahiga.
Here is my story for the Times:
Somalia’s al-Shabaab Islamist group will be defeated in its heartland by the end of the year, the United Nations envoy to the country predicted yesterday.
“The conventional capacity of al-Shabaab has been seriously degraded,” Dr Augustine Mahiga, the UN’s special representative in Somalia, told the Times at a gathering in Istanbul aimed at ending two decades of lawlessness in the failed state.
The al-Qaeda-affiliated insurgents have resorted to suicide bombings and guerrilla tactics after losing swathes of territory to Kenyan, Ethiopian and African Union forces.
“Judging from the pace they are making I would say by the end of the year there will be considerable control over the areas of southern and central Somalia,” said Dr Mahiga, a Tanzanian diplomat.
“There is an increasing capacity by Amisom [the African Union’s taskforce in Somalia] to deploy modern weapons to decrease asymmetrical warfare.”
Today Somali politicians and representatives of 54 countries will conclude the Istanbul conference, which is aimed at charting a stable future for the wartorn nation.
Somalia’s Prime Minister, Abdulweli Mohamed Ali, told delegates that his country is ‘on the verge of a new dawn’.
But in an interview with the Times, he accused the international community of endangering this process by failing to deliver promised funds – including £1m pledged by Britain.
“The international community promised they would pay the resources for ending the transition,” said Prime Minister Ali. “They promised back in September 2011… Thus far very little resources have come.”
Somalia’s leaders are struggling to meet a deadline of August 20 to deliver the country its first functioning government since 1991, and are currently crafting a new constitution and parliament.
Foreign countries have pledged $7.3m towards this process, to be given via the UN, but so far only $200,000 has arrived, Mr Ali claimed.
“It could be a recipe for failure if they do not deliver it,” he said. “The problem is the slow wheels of the UN.”
But he added that increased international focus, military gains against al-Shabaab, and dialogue between the country’s various factions means Somalia is poised to emerge from two decades of warfare and intermittent famine.
At the start of the Istanbul conference, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said Mogadishu was now open for business.
“After a long period of instability and conflict, we now have ahead of us an opportunity for genuine peace and security,” he told delegates.
Turkey has assumed a leading role in peace-building and humanitarian efforts in Somalia. Last August Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan became the first non-African premier to visit Mogadishu in almost two decades.
In March this year, Turkish Airlines opened direct flights from Istanbul to Mogadishu.
You can read the published version here. The Times’s Africa correspondent Jerome Starkey has this report from the frontline, where he joined African Union troops who have seized territory from al-Shabaab.