- Somalia's first President in 13 years, Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf, has taken his oath in a Nairobi ceremony and Somalia yesterday was re-granted its voting rights at the UN. While President Yusuf is not popular in southern Somalia and in the self-declared republic of Somaliland, Somalis are confident that this attempt to create a central government may succeed. It is the 14th attempt.
President Yusuf, who on Sunday was elected Somalia's Interim President by the Somali warlords' parliament in Kenya, today read out his oath. "I ... swear in the name of God, that I will fulfil my responsibility with devotion in a way that conforms to the interest of the country and to the Islamic religion and to serve the people and the country of Somalia and fully protect the Somali charter and other laws of the Republic of Somalia," he said.
The inauguration of Somalia's first President since 1991 caused load cheering among the 275 MPs gathered in the Kenyan capital, most of them for the entire two years it took to reach a peace and reconciliation deal. Also regional state leaders and other foreign representatives took part in the ceremony.
Somalis yesterday also were presented with good news from the UN as Somalia formally was re-granted the right to vote at the general assembly. Somalia's readmission came together with the one of Iraq and several small countries that had failed to pay their contribution to the UN, such as Comoros and São Tomé and Príncipe. For Somalia, however, the event was more symbolic as it represents the country's return to be represented as a unified nation.
Given the fact that 13 earlier attempts to reconcile the warring Somali factions have failed, many observers doom this 14th attempt already before Colonel Yusuf embarked on his presidency. President Yusuf has until now been the leader of the semi-autonomous Puntland region in north-eastern Somalia, where he is accused of undemocratic tendencies, embezzlement, human rights abuses and of clan-oriented policies.
In particular Somaliland - a non-recognised republic west of Puntland that recovered its independence from Somalia 13 years ago - has criticised Mr Yusuf, whose Puntland forces are occupying the Somalilander town of Las Aanod. The government and parliament of Somaliland this week threatened war if Somalia's new President would try to represent the breakaway state internationally or try to push for unification.
Somalilander analyses hold that President Yusuf will want to use military force against their country and that it is now time to strengthen the armed forces. Other Somaliland analysts however hold that Mr Yusuf stands small chances to unite "the South" (Somalia, not including Somaliland) due to clan infighting. The northerner of the Danod clan is seen as a threat to those clans dominating in Mogadishu and the southernmost parts of Somalia.
Also many other observers hold that President Yusuf faces a "mission impossible" if he is to re-establish peace and unity during his five-year term before general elections. Attempts to turn military control of Somalia's many regions over from local warlords to a federal but unified Somali state could provoke new clashes in the years to come.
President Yusuf however already has made a move that could turn the tide of violence and chaos. Today, he called on the UN and African Union (AU) to establish a new peacekeeping mission for Somalia that would be tasked to disarm the country's many militias. It however remains to be seen whether the international community is ready to send troops to Somalia 11 years after Somali warlords humiliated US and UN troops on a humanitarian mission in Mogadishu.
Despite the many obstacles to be faced by President Yusuf's government-to-be-elected, Somalis have reacted with optimism to the new situation. According to the 'BBC', the prices of small arms have dropped significantly at Mogadishu markets after Mr Yusuf's election, indicating a greater optimism and feeling of security in the Somali capital.
There several reasons for this 14th peace attempt to become more successful than the previous ones. First, practically all Somali warlords have participated in the two-year peace conference in Kenya and given their support to the establishment of a federal state. A significant majority voted for Mr Yusuf as President and detailed power-sharing plans have been made.
Colonel Yusuf also represents one of the strongest armed forces in Somalia, which have been able to secure a relatively high level of peace and stability in the Puntland region. While sometimes falling into clan-oriented thinking to achieve his goals, President Yusuf has for decades demonstrated that his goals are an all-Somali unity - which is just what is provoking authorities in Somaliland. If Mr Yusuf's government can produce quick results, he may therefore be embraced by all Somalis, regardless of clanship.
Another thing speaking in favour of President Yusuf's upcoming government are his strong ties to Ethiopia, the region's greatest power, where he first established his militias. Ethiopia has been one of the regional powers playing a role as mediator and stakeholder in Kenya and Ethiopian support is seen as key to a peaceful solution in Somalia.
The state of Ethiopia also has its Somali Region and the government of military ruler Siad Barre went to war against Ethiopia to include this region in Great Somalia. Addis Ababa therefore only supports Somali leaders that will pose no threat to Ethiopia and is said to have a large responsibility for the failure of the two last peace attempts.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.