In early September, Dr. Mahiga was in Mogadishu to address the high level Somali consultative conference, concentrating on roadmap issues and the winding up of the transitional period.
Ogaal Radio’s Bilan Hassan caught up with Dr.Mahiga at Metro Hall in an exclusive one on one interview that was later broadcast on the popular weekly radio show to thousands of listeners in Toronto, the GTA and throughout southern Ontario while thousands others across the world listened over the internet.
Only 15, the emerging journalist and radio host challenged Dr. Mahiga to explain why civil society groups were excluded from the conference noting that mini-states have threatened to boycott the adopted road map.
“In your opinion Dr. Mahiga, who or what parties do you think should be mandated to be part of this process? Are you going to push for adequate civil society participation in key issues before the transition period is over? Are you satisfied with the outcome of the consultative conference or do you think more should be done? asked Bilan Hassan.
Dr. Mahiga responded:
“The consultative conference and the signing of the road map is a process that will continue throughout the 12 months (reminder of transition period). The civil society was slated to participate but because we were racing against time, they did not get themselves organized on time. But we are organizing a meeting that will include the civil society in implementation of the road map in early October and they will very much be part of it throughout the process in the next 11 months.”
On the unpopular June 2011, UN-backed Kampala Accord that facilitated the removal of former Prime Minister Mohamed Abdillahi Farmajo and the spontaneous protests that followed, Dr. Mahiga was not only evasive but appeared to question the ability of Somalis to discern the content of the infamous document.
“How has your relationship with the Global Somali community been shaping up since then? Do you think you and sections of the Somali community who opposed the Kampala Accord are now on the same page? Do you think that the rifts that had paralyzed the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) are being ironed out now? fired Bilan at Mahiga.
“The Kampala Accord was signed in record breaking time, in only 5 days and for that reason, many Somalis did not understand the background and significance to it. We are now embarked on explaining the significance of this process because it has revitalized the peace process, which had totally stalemated in 6 months. It has also given the opportunity of signing the road map, which would define the political direction in the coming months. That is the significance of the Kampala Accord” said Dr. Mahiga.
Bilan Hassan noted that key players within the international community claim that “the TFG is too corrupt, too weak and too fragile to engage with” and hence the continued reliance on AMISOM and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the regional East African grouping despite the fact that Somalis feel the international community “should directly engage the Somali government” and that in the security front, “the solution lies in training, equipping and building a strong national army in Somalia”.
Bilan also pointed out that in Iraq and Afghanistan, “the international community has pumped billions of dollars to train and equip local armies and police forces despite accusations in mainstream media that these regimes are corrupt and inefficient,” while Somalia, which now has a technocrat-led government that has the potential to herald a new era of stability for the war-torn nation, “is largely ignored and its army and police are ill-equipped, ill-trained and grossly underfunded”.
Pressing on this issue, Bilan asked:
“Do you have faith in the current TFG? Are you concerned that the international community is applying different standards in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan Vis-a Vis that of Somalia despite the fact that all these three countries face similar security challenges?”
Dr. Mahiga acknowledged that “more needs to be done for Somalia compared to what is being done elsewhere. The Somali government needs institutions and issues on corruption and not so good governance can only be addressed through effective capacity building” adding that “the Somali army is fighting while it is being built. And for all those challenges, we are pushing forward in building a strong army that can fight the insurgency in and around Mogadishu”.
On the withdrawal of Al-Shabab from the Somali capital of Mogadishu and its gradual weakening in Somalia’s border areas, Bilan Hassan observed that this “may leave a security vacuum in regions the insurgents previously controlled” as the TFG has not been able to fill the vacuum left behind by Al-Shabab while logistical limitations mean that AMISON cannot venture outside the capital to secure the countryside. Bilan also stated that “there are concerns that warlords and clan militias may fill the vacuum left behind by Al-Shabab in certain areas which may cultivate insecurity similar to the mayhem of the warlord era”.
“What do you think should be done to prevent a large scale security vacuum from emerging in Somalia? How can the international community help in securing the entire country?” asked Bilan.
In his response, Dr. Mahiga focused on the security situation in Mogadishu but hinted that there could be future attempts to secure the countryside.
“It is always easier to clear territory than to hold it. We are now focusing on holding the secured parts of Mogadishu. I have asked the Security Council to expedite the deployment of 3000 more troops that have already been authorized so that the entire of City of Mogadishu can be secured. There could be further ventures to secure areas beyond Mogadishu”.
On the future of Somalia, Bilan asked:
“What picture do you think would emerge out of Somalia in post transition period after August 2012?”
Dr. Mahiga appeared optimistic that Somalia will go through a successful transition, which could herald the dawn of a new democratic era.
“I look forward to seeing a more inclusive, more democratic institutions and (a government) elected by a broad spectrum of the Somali people to complete the transition. This will be an epoch moment that has to be seized.” said Dr. Mahiga.