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Building Somalia's government from scratch

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    Assalamu alaikum, Building Somalia s government from scratch After a decade, the process begins with the prime minister ruling from a hotel. By Mike Crawley
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 11, 2000
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      Building Somalia's government from scratch

      After a decade, the process begins with the prime minister ruling from a

      By Mike Crawley
      Special to The Christian Science Monitor



      Being a member of the new Somali Parliament is currently high on the list
      of the world's most dangerous jobs.

      The 245 MPs were selected at a conference in neighboring Djibouti last
      August. Government members have been arriving in the capital gradually and
      in recent weeks, one MP was assassinated while two others survived
      separate attacks in which 12 members of their convoys died.

      Security is just one of the myriad obstacles faced by the government -
      Somalia's first after nearly a decade. There are no functioning
      ministries, no tax system; the international airport and seaport have been
      closed for years. The national currency is being printed at will by a
      consortium of businessmen. Virtually all government buildings lie in
      ruins, and secessionist administrations rule in the north of the country.

      If the new government fails to meet the challenges, Somalia could once
      again crumble into the kind of anarchy it saw in the early 1990s after the
      overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. Rival militias shot it out for
      control of the capital, and even the US military could not bring peace.

      For now, the government has its headquarters at the Ramadan Hotel, in the
      small sector of Mogadishu it controls. During an interview in the hotel
      garden, Prime Minister Ali Khalif Galayd acknowledges the challenges but
      puts on a brave face.

      "What is really making us very self-confident is we have the support of
      the majority of the Somali people," says Mr. Galayd, a former academic
      who's spent considerable time in the US.

      Asked to name his top priority, the prime minister says: "Everything is a
      priority. It's a question of priorities of priorities. The first one for
      us is the security issue. The second is the rehabilitation of the

      The government needs money for both. It wants to make Mogadishu's streets
      safe by paying militiamen to hand over their weapons and training them for
      new jobs. Reconstruction will cost a fortune, as the capital - once a
      pleasant seaside city - is a shambles. Destruction is found everywhere one
      looks, with scraps of blown-up vehicles lining medians and piles of rubble
      where buildings once stood.

      But at the moment, there's nothing in the treasury. While Western nations
      have welcomed the formation of the government, they're not rushing to dig
      into their pockets. Galayd and President Abdiqassim Salad - both of whom
      served as cabinet ministers in the Barre regime - spent much of November
      traveling to capitals near and far looking for financial support.

      Galayd says Somalia has received pledges from a few Arab nations, but for
      now, key Mogadishu business leaders are footing the government's hotel
      bills and feeding some 5,000 militiamen who've already accepted the
      demobilization offer.

      Business leaders say it's in their interest to support the government.
      Although they've operated unfettered by taxes or regulations since the
      former government collapsed, they now cry out for an administration.

      "If the government establishes peace in this country, that will do a great
      deal of good for the business community," says Abdi Sabriye, manufacturing
      director for NationLink, a Mogadishu conglomerate that includes a pasta
      factory, a phone company, an airline, and a TV station. "With the heavy
      amounts of money we are paying for our own security, the costs of
      generating our own electricity and water, we think we would be a lot
      better off with than without a government."

      Despite the support of the business community, the government has yet to
      quell the significant opposition it faces from the warlords. Although one
      former armed faction leader, Ali Mahdi, has joined the government and is
      now an MP, others, like Hussein Aideed and Osman Ali Ato, still issue

      "We hope [the government] will succeed, but it would be extremely arrogant
      to make any predictions about the success of the process," says a senior
      international aid official.

      One strong element in the government's favor is support from the local
      Islamic courts, whose militia are widely credited with reducing banditry
      in Mogadishu and surrounding areas over the past two years. But this
      support has led to concern that the government is too strongly tied to
      Islamic fundamentalist elements within the courts.

      Despite setbacks like the recent assassinations, Defense Minister
      Abdullahi Boqor Muse, says it's all par for the course: "Without accepting
      some sacrifices, we can't have the government stand on its own feet."

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