Sabahi (Washington, DC)

17 June 2013

East Africa: Somali Military Bolstered By East Africa, Middle East Allies

Mogadishu — Somalia's allies throughout East Africa and the Middle East are committing to help rebuild Somali military institutions through monetary and technical support.

Egypt is the latest regional country that has promised to help rebuild Somalia's military infrastructure, which was destroyed by two decades of civil war.

"The new Somali government is determined to rehabilitate the army's military facilities and to rebuild the armed forces ... based on modern and advanced foundations and with the support of friendly countries, including Egypt, that have historically contributed towards supporting the Somali armed forces," said Admiral Farah Qare, commander of the Somali naval forces.

Qare headed a government committee that received a high-level delegation from the Egyptian Ministry of Defence on June 4th in Mogadishu.

"The facilities that the Egyptians intend to help us rebuild are several of the army's military bases and hospitals in addition to the Somali Ministry of Defence's headquarters and offices," he told Sabahi, adding that the process would begin in the next few months.

Retired Colonel Mohamed Ali Moalim, who served in the Somali national army under former President Mohamed Siad Barre, said the United Nations arms embargo against Somalia was an obstacle for the government and hindered the support needed to develop an effective national army.

"The decision of the UN Security Council to ease the weapons embargo on Somalia for a year has encouraged friendly countries and those interested in the Somali issue to help the Somali government in its efforts to rebuild its national army," Moalim told Sabahi.

The Somali army needs to be completely overhauled to take on its full responsibilities, Moalim said.

"Establishing a strong army capable of performing its security duties and extending the state's control throughout the country is key to establishing peace in Somalia," he said. "New leaders are struggling to build an effective national army in addition to working towards integrating members of armed militias within the ranks of the regular army."

The Ministry of Defence said it began the difficult task of overhauling the military in February with the evacuation of squatters and internally displaced persons from military buildings and hospitals.

"The Somali Ministry of Defence has managed to evacuate several military institutions, including the military airport adjacent to Mogadishu International Airport, the officers' recreational centre Circolo Ufficiale in Howlwadag district and the military hospital in Hodan," said Ahmed Hussein, deputy assistant for infrastructure at the Ministry of Defence.

Egypt, Turkey, Sudan and Djibouti have promised to contribute towards rehabilitating military institutions, said Hussein, who also sits on a committee that supervises evacuations of military property.

Deputy Minister of Public Works and Reconstruction Nadifo Mohamed Osman said there has been renewed Arab interest in supporting Somalia.

"Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and other countries have made huge commitments, such as funding reconstruction projects in Somalia and training members of the Somali armed forces as part of the framework of efforts to support the new Somali government," she told Sabahi.

During the Arab League Summit in March, member states voiced support for providing political, financial and technical aid to Somalia to help the new government continue political progress, reinforce security and support reconstruction efforts.

"Iraq has pledged $15 million to implement several construction projects in Somalia that include rehabilitating several public service institutions and headquarters of the Ministry of Public Works and Reconstruction, as well as building a training institute and hospital for mental illness in Mogadishu," Osman said.

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