Istanbul ll conference: speech by Prime Minister of Somalia
Istanbul: Let me start by thanking our hosts, Turkey, for the hospitality and the warm welcome received. I would also like to thank the United Nations and Turkey for jointly convening this important conference on Somalia’s future. Somalia and Turkey have profound historical relations dating back to the Middle Ages and the ties between the Adal Sultanate and the Ottoman Empire going back to the 16th Century, during the Ottoman Empire and the rule of Sultan Salim I in 1517. Turkey has recently revived this relationship in a very unique way and the people of Somalia are ever indebted to Turkey to reaching out in a time of need.
I would like to take this opportunity to speak to the Somali people and our friends across the globe. I shall take this opportunity to set out a vision for Somalia’s future, the obstacles we face and the task at hand we must deliver on. It’s no great secret that my administration inherited a pile of problems and little practical support or solutions to proceed with.
Our progress report is thus. We’ve regained control of the capital city Mogadishu and large swathes of the previously ungovernable Southern and Central regions in less than nine months. The Al-Shabaab element will not survive for too long, their reckless tactics have sapped them of all support.
The Roadmap towards forming a permanent government is nearing completion. The number of MPs in the new parliament will be reduced to a sensible 225, and women will represent 30% of the MPs in the New Somalia.
The new provisional constitution that will ensure the basic elements of dignity, justice and equality that are integral to the new Somalia, is in its final draft and will soon be debated and adopted by the National Constituent Assembly.
My goal is to bring stability that will lead to the Somali people taking charge of their country. We need to guide Somalia towards a new direction, a fresh start, away from labels such as “the world’s worst failed state” – back to the proud independent nation we’ve always been, a nation of autonomous, vital, self-reliant men and women, the nation of poets, respected in this part of the world for nearly a millennia. Somalia is more than hungry faces in the news, pirates or extremists; it is a diverse, rich land with historical pedigree.
I can foresee a day where Somalia has an active, vibrant economy buoyed by modern infrastructure and by highways, a Somalia with a highly educated young professional class, a Somalia where one can travel in peace in the dead of the night, a Somalia where we play an essential part of an ‘East African Economic zone’, with trade booming across this region, fuelling the global economy. A Somalia with an export-led economy rather than an import-fuelled economy. A Somalia that is a business hub, connecting Asia and Africa. A Somalia where our society is fed by a rich cultural life. THIS IS WHAT I THINK SOMALIA CAN AND WILL BE – Inshallah.
Our country is abundant in resources – we have the longest coastline in Africa, 9 million acres of fertile land, the highest per capita livestock in the world. We have oil and minerals. We are strategically located at the gateway of the Middle East and Africa, at the corner of the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
Despite the conflict for the last 21 years, we have one of the best and cheapest telecommunications around the world. Somalis in the Diaspora have established huge businesses around the globe whether it is in Dubai, Kenya, South Africa and other parts of the world.
Our challenge as Somalis is how to tap into this great wealth and use it to bring our country and our people back onto the global economic playing field.
Which brings us to this conference. I would like to point out three ideas that I want you all to keep in mind over the next two days:
First, Somalia’s future is in the hands of Somalis. Only we can shift our path towards prosperity and peace, and we can achieve this only by engaging with each other and rolling up our sleeves. The last few days in Istanbul has provided us with another platform to have this exchange and we are grateful to the Turkish government.
Second, as we pursue Somali-led solutions, we need the international community to unite behind our vision. This conference will be successful if the international community succeeds in adopting a common position on the future of Somalia.
Turkey’s active presence in Somalia has provided a tangible example of a new development paradigm. I hope the rest of our partners draw useful parallels from Turkey’s example.
Third, we need to think long term. Somalia is ready for development. If we do not work on longer-term development, we will always be faced with short-term crisis management.
More worryingly, the security gains we have made will remain fragile as long we as do not address the underlying causes of conflict such as poverty, unemployment and environmental destruction. This can only be done with development.
I am hopeful that in today’s Partnership sessions on energy, water, roads, and “resilience”, this long-term thinking and planning will be exercised. Talking about “resilience” – I just want to add, given the last 21 years of difficulties that our nation has been through, the Somali people have shown tremendous resilience and maybe we can even teach the world a thing or two about it.
Let me underscore how absolutely critical it is that we take an assertive and energetic approach to promoting reconciliation and stabilization in the newly accessible or newly recovered areas. Why? Because without doing so, we will risk the emergence of an administrative vacuum that will lead to the return of conflict. We cannot allow this to happen, so we must collectively support local reconciliation and bottom-up participation, leadership and governance. The government has prepared a National Reconciliation and Stabilization Plan to align the efforts of all actors in the newly accessible areas.
As we move forward into the new Somalia, our focus must be on the “four modernizations”:
3. Agriculture and livestock
4. Scientific and technological development
These themes will be explored further in the next two days.
Given the destruction of the last 20 years, Somalia requires a huge reconstruction and development plan, and a correspondingly huge infusion of resources. These resources will come from Somali entrepreneurship fused with strategic partnerships. We will rely on the human capital of returning Somali professionals as well as training our people back home. If I may quote a famous line, “education is the passport to the future for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
We call for strategic trade relationships, and foreign direct investment in Somalia. We call for a multilateral trust fund for Somalia, to be focused on reconstruction and development. The need is too great for one donor to manage, so we are asking for multiple donors to set up a trust fund.
Somalia’s on the verge of a new dawn. We must be ready to seize the moment and build on the foundations we’ve laid this past year. We owe it to our children and their children to give them a better future.
Today Mogadishu is thriving as a result of the security gains of the past 9 months thanks to the TFG Forces, AMISOM and neighboring countries, as well as the Turkish direct investments in infrastructure, construction and social services. This is the model for the country as we look to the future – security plus investment.
Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen, I am optimistic about the possibilities for Somalia and I hope you share my enthusiasm. I thank you for your active participation at this conference, and for your contributions to the people of Somalia.
- Opening Statement of H.E. Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Prime Minister of Somalia Istanbul II Conference May 31 – June 1, 2012