Somali PM Optimistic About Winning Stronger International Support Against Al-Shabab

Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre said Thursday that his government is appealing for more international support in its long-running war against al-Shahab militants.

In an exclusive interview with VOA, Barre says he will appeal to the U.N. General Assembly this weekend about removing an international arms embargo so Somalia is capable of eliminating al-Shabab, a U.N. and U.S.-designated terrorist organization that has fought the Somali government for 16 years.

Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre is interviewed by VOA’s Asha Aden Mohamed, Sept. 21, 2023, in New York.

Barre said Somalia’s first priority is security, which he said cannot be fully achieved without a well-trained and well-equipped Somali national army.

“We need and would implore the world community for a complete lifting of the arms embargo that has been imposed on Somalia since 1992,” he said. “By doing so, our security forces would be able to take full control and responsibility of the country’s security.”

The embargo was imposed during Somalia’s early 1990s civil war.

Barre’s appeal comes as the African Union Transition Mission, or ATMIS, in Somalia, announced the start of the second round of a planned troop withdrawal. AU forces have been stationed in Somalia since 2007.

Barre, who is scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday, said he would give a comprehensive overview of Somalia’s progress.

The prime minister said he aimed to shed light on the nation’s achievements in diverse areas like poverty reduction, health care, education, economic growth, human rights, peace, security, and climate change.

Somalia’s army is in the middle of a military offensive against al-Shabab. Since President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared a “total war” against the militants in August 2022, al-Shabab fighters have withdrawn from some of the group’s central Somalia strongholds under pressure from the army and allied local militias.

According to government military officials, the role of international partners in the ongoing operations has been limited to airstrikes against al-Shabab fighters and vehicles, which Barre says is not enough.

“In fact, many countries support us in different ways in the fight against al-Shabab, primarily the United States, European Union, Turkey, and the African Union troops. The question is, though, is if their support is at the level we would like to be. I would say it is not enough,” he told VOA.

Barre said there are grounds for optimism that the current battle against al-Shabab will successfully eradicate the terror organization.

“If we were talking about al-Shabab militants threatening Mogadishu security, now, we are talking about fighting with them in their remote strongholds, and that is a sign of optimism, and that peace and stability is on the horizon,” Barre said.

Barre said there was a need for concerted international efforts to protect gains made over the years and ensure sustained pressure against al-Shabab.

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