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Published On: Sun, Feb 18th, 2018

Interview with Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Samantar by Muhammad Sadiq in Washington

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Araweelo News Network

Interview with Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Samantar by Muhammad Sadiq in Washington

London AL-SHARQ AL- AWSAT in Arabic

5 Feb 1989 p3

[Excerpts] [Sadiq] You have met with a number of U.S. officials during your current visit to Washington. What did you discuss with them?

[Samantar] First of all, I want to stress that the purpose of my visit is to answer the rumors and correct the distorted picture previously painted of Somalia in the United States. That is the main purpose – to explain the facts about Somalia.

I explained to the U.S. officials with whom I met the Somali Government’s recent political, economic, and social decisions and my government’s intention to purify bilateral relations between Somalia and the United States. All my meetings, whether with administration or Congress officials, were held in a cordial atmosphere. I also met with representatives of human rights organizations and U.S. media.

All the talks were successful and we agreed on many things. When I explained to them the recent steps we took in Somalia, they welcomed them and expressed approval.

[Sadiq] Could you tell us in specific terms about the issues you discussed and agreed upon with U.S. officials, and about their reactions?

[Samantar] We discussed the issue of human rights with government and Congress officials and organizations interested in human rights. I told them that the information and reports they had were distorted and incorrect. [passage omitted]

[Sadiq] Did you discuss the question of chemical weapons, on which the United States has made some accusations against Somalia, claiming that it obtained such weapons from Libya?

[Samantar] They asked us about that. We told them that there was no evidence to support the claim, that there is no truth in all this, that we have not received or stockpiled any such weapons, and that we neither want nor need such weapons. We emphasized to them that Somalia is opposed to the stockpiling and use of such weapons. I told them that their information about Libya supplying us with these weapons is not true. I told them that there are American experts in Somalia and American military experts in the Somali Army, and they would know if there are any chemical weapons in Somalia because all army camps are open to them and such weapons cannot be concealed.

[Sadiq] There were some cabinet changes in Somalia recently. What is the significance of these changes, and were they related to your Washington visit, which coincided with them?

[Samantar] The defense minister was changed. He was moved to another ministry and a new defense minister was appointed in his place. A deputy defense minister was also appointed. Such changes are ordinary. What was unusual was that for the first time since the army assumed power on 21 October 1969, a civilian has been appointed defense minister. [passage omitted]

[Sadiq] One of Somalia’s main problems is the conflict between government forces and the Somali National Movement in northern Somalia. How big is the movement, militarily and politically?

[Samantar] They do not constitute a big force or weight. When they launched their attack in northern Somalia, they had about 5,000 trained armed men. We destroyed the vast majority of that force. Now they focus on propaganda and the foreign media and offer misinformation, which the foreign media hastily publishes. [passage omitted]

I assure you that they have no major weight or force. When they attacked Hargeysa, they forced the civilians to take up arms, and some sympathized with them on the basis of the distorted information they gave the civilians, such as saying they were in control of the town. However, once these misled civilians learned the truth, they abandoned them. To deceive the innocent, they claimed that Britain and the United States supported them and that British ships were in Berbera, and that the British and Americans would land to back them up. The people, however, soon discovered the truth. I can assure you that the U.S. ambassador in Somalia toured the area three days ago and reported to his government. His report was positive. The Americans are convinced of what I told them because it is identical with what he said in his report.

[Sadiq] What is the area of the territory under their control?

[Samantar] They do not control a single foot of territory. There are scattered individuals and small groups, some in the mountain areas. At night they plant mines on roads and attack civilian convoys.

[Sadiq] Which states still aid the Somali National Movement?

[Samantar] Ethiopia is the only state that helps them. There is no incriminating evidence of other states helping them. Ethiopia has frequently denied aiding them. When we raised the subject with officials there, they said they have only offered humanitarian aid, but the truth is that Ethiopia gives them arms, ammunition, supplies, and whatever medicines and food they need. However, Ethiopia has many internal problems in Eritrea, and I do not believe that it will be able to sustain that aid.

[Sadiq] What, in your view, is the way to end the civil war, and have you submitted any particular program to theU.S. officials during the visit?

[Samantar] First of all, I cannot call what is going on a war. That is not an appropriate description. There is a problem in the north and we are serious about solving it. We have taken some positive decisions and steps and we have sent many delegations to the north.

[Sadiq] What were the decisions and steps you took?

[Samantar] The decisions and steps we have taken include visits to the north by government and parliament officials as well as Somali men of religion and businessmen. They went to the northern leaders and talked to them. People are now beginning to return to their homes. One result achieved is that we will begin talks with the traditional leaders of these areas. There is also a program for reconstruction and revival of the utilities and public services destroyed, such as hospitals, schools, commercial centers, and individual homes.

[Sadiq] These are important steps, but the solution should above all be political and achieved with the participation of the parties to the problem. What have you done in this connection?

[Samantar] We have appealed to the world states to help us rebuild the north, which suffered grave losses and needs massive funds. We cannot do that ourselves. We hope we will get the necessary response.

As regards a program for a political solution, we have made a political decision to solve the problem of the north by peaceful means, and that includes pooling national efforts. We have provided tax-exempt facilities for the people of the north to revive the economy. The government will rebuild what has been destroyed and will encourage merchants to invest. We have also decided to give major responsibilities in all provinces to local civilians from the provinces. That decision applies to the entire republic, not only the north. [passage omitted]

[Sadiq] In the context of your efforts to promote a political solution, do you intend to negotiate with the opposition?

[Samantar] Not at all. We cannot negotiate with them.

[Sadiq] On the question of a solution, what reaction did you get from U.S. officials as regards helping you to solve the problem, bearing in mind that the new administration is inclined, in cooperation with the Soviet Union, to solve regional problems and conflicts? Did the Americans confirm that? What impression did you get from them?

[Samantar] Actually, I did not request any assistance from the Americans regarding the problem of the north, and we do not want to make any requests. Our relations with the United States are good.

[Sadiq] What about financial and economic aid from the United States?

[Samantar] Because of the misinformation about the so-called violation of human rights in Somalia, Congress, under pressure from some of its members, suspended some of the aid to Somalia. However, after my talks and discussions with U.S. government officials, I got the impression that they were convinced of the steps we have taken. Once these steps are completed, the aid will be resumed.

[Sadiq] It has been said in Washington that you requested financial and economic aid. What was their answer?

[Samantar] I made no such request. Seeking aid was not my mission, and I had nothing like that in my baggage. My fast task was to present the facts about Somalia and change the distorted picture that American public opinion had of Somalia and refute these falsehoods. I invited media representatives to Somalia to see for themselves. Somalia’s world image is good. True, we are poor, but poverty is not a measure of a nation’s dignity.

[Sadiq] President Siyaad Barre has toured the Arab states and you are touring some other states. Did President Barre’s tour achieve its objectives?

[Samantar] Yes, it achieved its objectives. Although I was abroad, my information is that the tour was good and successful.

[Sadiq] What would you say to claims that, because of the changing international equations, Somalia’s special relations with the United States are not guaranteed to continue, and that might affect the present Somali regime?

[Samantar] Let me first emphasize that the existing good U.S. Somali relations are in the general interest of both countries. I believe that superpower rapprochement will stabilize international security, ease tension, and solve regional problems, because both sides give arms to parties in conflict and, therefore, I believe that if they should suspend shipments of arms supplies to the hotbeds of tension, this would help the peoples of these areas to solve their problems peacefully.

[Sadiq] Did the Americans confirm that to you, or did you sense any such inclination on their part?

[Samantar] No, I cannot say that with certainty, but it will come in the future. In 1988, the U.S. Government cut its military aid to African states considerably. That is an indication. The rapprochement will help states settle their differences peacefully.

Meanwhile, we have decided to pursue peaceful means to improve our relations with the states with which our relations are not good or tense. For example, we have decided to improve our relations with the Soviet Union. My deputy has visited Moscow on a mission similar to my mission to the United States and Britain. He also visited Czechoslovakia and will visit Algeria and Tunisia. [passage omitted]

[Sadiq] What about your relations with Libya?

[Samantar] They are good and there is rapprochement between us now. These relations were tense at one time, mainly because of Libya’s support for the rebels in the past, but Libya stopped aiding the rebels when our relations improved. The same thing applies to the PDRY.

[Sadiq] When discussing the Somali problem and the situation in the Horn of Africa with the Americans, did you broach the problem of southern Sudan, particularly as the former Sudanese foreign minister who had joined the Garang movement was in Washington a few days ago? Is there a connection between the two problems in the general context of the situation in the Horn of Africa?

[Samantar] I conveyed a true picture of the situation in the region to the U.S. officials with whom I met, including Secretary of State James Baker. The problem of southern Sudan is one of the Horn of Africa problems, and these problems are interlinked. As you know, Ethiopia plays a part in the problem of southern Sudan. It helps the rebels, but the Ethiopian Government has promised to stop doing that. Talks are currently in progress between the two countries with a view to settling the southern Sudan question peacefully. The Ethiopian Government wants Sudan to help Ethiopia solve the Eritrean problem, which the Ethiopians now believe cannot be solved by military means. Apart from that, there is no direct link between the problems of northern Somalia and southern Sudan.

[Sadiq] In the course of your efforts to solve the problem of northern Somalia, what would you like to say to those whom you call dissidents and the states that support them?

[Samantar] I address the rebels through AL-SHARQ AL-AWSAT and I say to them: You have been pardoned, so return to your country. The president has granted you amnesty, so return to your country and do your part in rebuilding the country along with your brothers and kinfolk. Spending your time and life in foreign countries is of no use to you. You can no longer spread misinformation about Somalia in the world. The world now knows the facts about Somalia, and marketing propaganda as a commodity is no longer possible.

To those who support the dissidents I say: Stop interfering in Somalia’s internal affairs. The Somalis are capable of solving their own problems. I thank the neighboring and other states for their help.

I particularly address Ethiopia, which supports the dissidents, and I say: We are serious about implementing the agreement we signed with you. We have implemented the first part of the agreement, which paves the way for the more important second part, and we want to implement that. We do not want implementation of the second part of the agreement to fail. That is why we overlook many things to ensure the success of the agreement and the implementation of its second part. [passage omitted]

Waxa idiin soo gudbiyay

Aniis Cabdillahi Ciise

Somaliland Advocacy Group

Washington dc..usa

 

About the Author

- Arraale Mohamoud Jama Freelance Journalist and Human Rights Activist Arraale, is a 20 year experience as a professional Journalist and human rights activist Over the years, worked for the major News Papers in Somaliland as a reporter, editor and contributor. 2008 established website Araweelo News Network, he currently runs a web site based in Somaliland. who is the specializes in the investigation and reporting on issues relating to human rights, democracy, and good governance. contact: Info@araweelonews.com jaamac132@gmail.com Send an SMS or MMS to + 252 63 442 5380 WhatsApp + 252 65 910 7347.

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