Somalia’s interim president has said that his government can crush the armed opposition, which is being spearheaded by « children named al Shabaab. »
In a Friday interview with the VOA Somali Service, President Abdullahi Yusuf said the Somali transitional government has the military capacity to completely crush al Shabaab and other armed opposition groups fighting in the capital, Mogadishu.
« We are concerned about the safety of civilians for we cannot fight among them [civilians] against these children, » President Yusuf said, adding: « [These children] do not hear anything, do not know anything, have no academic knowledge and are bought for petty Shillings [money] by opposition leaders. »
He indicated that al Shabaab is a guerrilla group that is incapable of maintaining control of towns the group captures, saying: « Their [al Shabaab] objective is propaganda to tell the world that they exist and that there is chaos [in Somalia], » President Yusuf added.
The Somali leader stated that he is not willing to step down yet, because he has « not given up. »
« I am a man with strong principles…if I [ever] do give up, I will not stay, » the President told VOA.
The ailing Somali leader briefly described his years in office and the accomplishments of the transitional government, saying that the Islamic Courts group refused to accept peace with the government prior to the December 2006 Ethiopian military intervention.
« We [government] came to Mogadishu with power and we are here now…this is a great accomplishment, » President Yusuf claimed.
Somalia’s leader is currently visiting Washington, D.C., where he is scheduled to speak with U.S. government officials.
On Wednesday, President Yusuf gave an address at the United Nations Security Council meeting in New York, whereby he called for the removal of a 1992 UN arms embargo on the war-torn Horn of Africa country.
President Yusuf also formally asked the UN to deploy peacekeepers to strengthen a small African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia and replace Ethiopian troops serving in the country.
Somalia has lacked national order since 1991 when warlords overthrew military dictator Siad Barre and plunged the country into years of civil war.
Ethiopia’s intervention in late 2006 sparked a bloody insurgency led by Islamist guerrillas, who want to topple Yusuf’s interim government and reestablish Islamic Sharia law across the country.