UN welcomes Somali new unity cabinet
The United Nations top envoy for Somalia has welcomed the announcement of the new Somali cabinet by Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke in Mogadishu on Friday, Xinhua reported.
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN Special Representative for Somalia, said in a statement issued on Saturday that he is happy that the new government would return to Mogadishu this weekend to start work on alleviating the plight of their compatriots
"I am very pleased that the prime minister has chosen a government of National Unity as outlined in the Djibouti Agreement of 18 August 2008," the UN envoy said.
Ould-Abdallah noted that it was encouraging to see members of the original Transitional Federal Government alongside some fresh faces from what was the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia.
"This cabinet is a healthy combination of experience and youth and I welcome it. The security on the ground in Mogadishu has improved and I would like to praise the work of Somalis to bring this about," he said.
"I am also heartened to hear that the two Italian nuns abducted in November 2008 have been released. This is excellent news, although long overdue, and it is good to hear that they are safe and out of harm's way."
There have been several encouraging developments over the past month for Somalia, which has not had a functioning central government since 1991.
These include the election of the country's new President, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, in what the UN has hailed as "a fair and open manner" and the creation of an enlarged Parliament.
"However I would like to repeat my call for all remaining hostages, Somali and foreign, to be released immediately and allowed to return to their homes and families. Those responsible for holding these innocent captives should take advantage of this time of renewed hope in Somalia to show a gesture of humanity and patriotism," he said.
The new government is expected to return this weekend from neighboring Djibouti to Mogadishu, where security on the ground has "improved," according to Ould-Abdallah.
At the same time, he noted that despite some progress, "Somalia remains an extremely dangerous place for many Somalis, particularly humanitarian workers and journalists."
"I call on elders and religious leaders in the communities to use their influence to stop the violence. Everyone needs to work together to create a stable environment -- one where children have an education and the young people employment. Security and development are closely linked and we need the help of both Somalis and the international community to ensure there is major progress in this area," the UN envoy added.
Somalia's new premier Omar Abdirshid Shermarke on Friday formed his cabinet and named a senior Islamist leader as interior minister in the new government of national unity.
The new cabinet, comprising more than 35 ministers, also includes members of the previous Somali government officials and those of the former opposition Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS) whose leader moderate Islamist Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was elected president in a vote by the enlarged Somali parliament last month.
Abdulkadir Ali Omar, the new interior minister, is a close ally of the Somali president and the deputy chairman of the moderate Islamist group, the Islamic Courts Union, which controlled much of southern and central Somali during the latter half of 2006, before the movement was ousted by the allied Ethiopian and Somali government forces.
The new Somali government's program for the next three months will been voted on by the Somali parliament now meeting in Djibouti City, before it relocates to the Somali capital Mogadishu.
The new government faces the daunting task of making peace with hardline Islamist groups such as the Al-Shabaab and Hezbul Islam which are opposed to the new Somali government and have vowed to fight it.