INTERVIEW-EU envoy talks tough to Somalian leaders
Wed Feb 8, 2012 5:32pm GMT
* Concern that security gains outpacing political reform
* EU is biggest donor to Somalia
* Says EU open-minded on form of govt, but there are rules
By Richard Lough
MOGADISHU, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Somalia's leaders must press ahead with
political reforms or risk losing aid from the European Union, its biggest
donor, the EU envoy to the Horn of Africa said on Wednesday.
While significant military gains have been made in the battle against al
Qaeda-linked rebels in Somalia, foreign powers are frustrated at the slow
pace of change in a political system plagued by corruption and infighting.
"We're not going to sit and benignly give money. If people through
deliberate inaction choose to stall the process we will take note, which is
a polite way of saying we will take action," Alexander Rondos, European
Union Special Representative to the Horn of Africa, told Reuters.
"The culture of impunity must end," Rondos said on a flight from Mogadishu
after his first visit to the capital since taking up the post on Jan. 1. He
did not elaborate on what punitive actions the bloc might take.
The European Union is the biggest donor to Somalia, stumping up close to 1
billion euros between 2008-2013 for governance, education and development
projects, as well as the stipends of an African peacekeeping force, police
training and an anti-piracy task force.
Somalia has been mired in conflict and awash with weapons since the
overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Rival warlords and then
Islamist militants reduced the government to impotence.
Rondos, a straight-talking Greek politician, met Somalia's president and
prime minister, who are tasked with drafting a new constitution, slimming
down a bloated parliament and holding elections for top political posts by
He described his meetings with President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a former
Islamist commander, and Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali as "very good".
A source involved with the talks said they were not "your usual diplomatic
"KNOW THERE ARE SOME RULES"
Islamist militant group al Shabaab, which launched an insurgency five years
ago, is stretched on three battlefronts by African troops in the capital and
Kenyan and Ethiopian troops in south and central regions of the country.
But defeating al Shabaab will not mean peace unless there is tangible
political reform that heralds a credible government, diplomats say.
The interim government, the latest in a string of transitional
administrations in Somalia, has signed up to a political road map with an
Aug. 20 deadline for elections but admits the tasks are huge.
Small steps are being made, including improved security in Mogadishu, but
there remain huge question marks over what form the next administration will
"This transition has to keep up the momentum. Frankly, I don't care if (they
think the deadline) is artificial. That's politics and they have to stick to
it," Rondos said.
A car bomb that killed at least nine in the coastal city on Wednesday and a
row that has sparked punch-ups in parliament and split the chamber with two
factions claiming their own speaker, underscore the challenges ahead.
Some diplomats say it is former warlords in the assembly who are wary of
losing influence who are spearheading the opposition to the reform process
Rondos was born in Tanzania and educated partly in Kenya. His appointment is
aimed at bolstering the EU's political clout in the volatile region.
He said further funding for Somalia would be a tough sell to EU member
states if there was no demonstrable progress towards peace, security and
civil order within a year.
"I'm insistent in saying we don't want to impose what that (political)
system is, but know there are some rules," Rondos said he told the Somalian
leaders. (Editing by David Clarke)
MOGADISHU, Feb 8 (Reuters) - A suicide car bomber killed at least 11 people
on Wednesday near a hotel where lawmakers gather in the Somali capital, a
sign of the fragile security situation in Mogadishu even after Islamist
rebels pulled out last year.
Police officer Hassan Ali told Reuters the attacker rammed his vehicle into
a cafe outside the Muna Hotel, in the heart of areas controlled by
government and African Union forces and not far from the presidential
Al Shabaab militants claimed responsibility. "We were behind the explosion
at the Muna Hotel. We targeted legislators and government officials," Sheikh
Abdiasis Abu Musab, spokesman for al Shabaab's military operations, told
Al Shabaab rebels dressed in army uniforms attacked the same hotel in August
2010, storming the building and killing more than 30 people.
The al Qaeda-linked militants pulled out of Mogadishu a year later but still
pose an almost daily threat, even though U.N. and Western officials say 98
percent of the capital is now in government hands.
Shop fronts and cafe walls just outside the hotel were destroyed by the
blast. African Union and government soldiers secured the area to move the
dead and the wounded away.
"Some people say the death toll is 15, but I have confirmed 11 civilians
dead, a legislator was also slightly injured. It was a 4x4 suicide car
bomb," police spokesman Abdullahi Barise told Reuters.
Police and the spokesman for African Union troops in Somalia said initial
reports showed that the attacker first opened fire on people sitting near
the hotel before detonating the car bomb.
Since pulling out of the capital, al Shabaab has launched frequent attacks
against the Western-backed government with suicide bombers, roadside bombs
A truck bomb killed more than 70 people in October in al Shabaab's most
deadly single attack in the capital since launching an insurgency in 2007.
Wednesday's blast coincided with a visit to Mogadishu by the European
Union's new special envoy and comes two weeks before a one-day conference in
London to tackle the instability in Somalia and piracy off its shores.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague also visited Mogadishu last week and
appointed a new Somalia ambassador, but said Britain would not open an
embassy in Mogadishu until security improved. (Editing by David Clarke)
C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved
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Received on Wed Feb 08 2012 - 16:13:11 EST