July 4, 2012 ·15 Comments
MOGADISHU — Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed has departed on an African trip with stops in Rwanda, Burundi and Sudan, to strengthen ties and for a regional support.
Mr. Ahmed embarked on a regional trip that saw him visit three nations in three days to drum up support for his re-election next month. He left the Somali capital moments after celebrating the country’s 52nd anniversary of independence to celebrate Burundi’s own fete.
The Rwandan progress
On Sunday evening, the Somali leader received a warm welcome from President Paul Kagame followed by a colourful ceremony by traditional Rwandan dancers in Kigali.
After taking a guard salute from the Rwandan forces, the two African leaders met at the office of Mr. Kagame where they discussed ways to boost bilateral ties in security and peace building.
Like Somalia, Rwanda was once devastated by a civil war and almost two decades since the genocide — Rwanda has experienced remarkable growth and development. Somalia is exploring ways it could emulate some of Rwanda’s policies and reconciliation practices.
Burundi celebrates 50 years of self-rule
By Monday he arrived in Bujumbura to join other Heads of State and other invited dignitaries to commemorate Burundi’s 50th Independence Golden Jubilee.
The event attended by thousands of Burundians was held at Prince Louis Rwangasore stadium in Bujumbura to mark the end of Belgium rule. African leaders who attended the anniversary celebrations included Presidents Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Teodoro Obiang of Equitorial Guinea.
President Ahmed later met with his Burundian counterpart Pierre Nkurunziza where the two sides discussed ways to boost cooperation between the two countries.
Somalia already hosts over 4,000 Burundian troops and during the bilateral talks, Mr. Ahmed requested for more assistance in the security sector. According to regional organizations, Burundi has lost over 200 soldiers in the war on terrorism in Somalia.
Mr. Nkurunziza promised to commit an additional battalion in Somalia. Mr. Ahmed on his side thanked the former Hutu rebel for his continues support.
Sudan is always second home
From Bujumbura President Ahmed departed for Khartoum where he arrived on Wednesday evening for a one-day state visit.
He received a tumultuous welcome from President Omar al-Bashir at the airport in the capital, which touched the Somali head of state. The 48-year-old interim leader was a student in Sudan before his political career and this felt spiritual experience and a second home coming for him.
Upon arrival, Ahmed was taken to the State House for bilateral talks with the Sudanese leader. Omar al-Bashir congratulated Ahmed for the recent positive development in the country and promised to stand should-to-shoulder with the Somali people.
During their meeting, President al-Bashir said he will extend bilateral and technical support to Somalia during and after its transition process. President Ahmed expressed gratitude for the offer and reiterated the Sudanese-Somali relations.
Sheikh Sharif Ahmed applauded the warm relations between the Sudan and Somalia which dates back couple decades. His visit comes during when there was number of riots in several Sudanese towns over the cut of fuel subsidies.
The Somali President toured a printing facility that produces banknotes on Thursday in Khartoum. According to sources close to him, Somalia is in the process of issuing new currency notes. They did not specify whether the notes will be a new currency or just fresh notes to replace the old however they insisted “designers are in the process of making new currency”.
President Sheikh Sharif is expected to face heavy criticism at home once he returns as many people are angry over the timing of these trips. Most of the key benchmarks of the Roadmap process to end the transition in Somalia in just over 40 days has not being completed. The new constitution should have been by now ratified by a National Constituent Assembly (NCA), which is yet to be formed.
Many Somali intellectuals fear the latest trips, more than six in just two weeks could spark another rift in the fragile nation. They claim President Ahmed is only embarking on regional tours to drum up support ahead of the August deadline elections. After lobbying local elders, community leaders and tribal figures–he wants to secure the regional powers’ backing. He is expected to visit Ethiopia next on his list.
July 4, 2012Follow @somalilandpress