Somalia’s transitional federal government has fully welcomed the first opinion polls conducted in Mogadishu and surrounding areas for the first time in twenty years.
The Transitional Government of Somalia has warmly welcomed Saturday’s release of polling data from Mogadishu, saying this represents a big step on the path to true democracy in the country.
Prime Minister Mohammed Abdullahi “Farmajo” hailed the first proper poll since 1991. He said it demonstrates for the first time that the overwhelming majority of Mogadishu citizens agree on the fundamentals of rebuilding their state, including an overwhelming desire for democracy and popular elections.
“This is a wake-up call to the whole nation. For a long time we were led to believe that we were a divided people. Now we see that only a small, violent and aggressive minority stands between us,” the Prime minister said in an emailed statement.
“Now people in Mogadishu can know where the majority view sits. We can see that we have more that unites us than divides us. I ask everyone to redouble their efforts towards healing and rebuilding our shattered country, for this is what we all want. Polls like this lift the veil of fear and oppression so that we can hear the views of ordinary people,” he added.
The poll was released by the Mogadishu Media House, an independent media centre. It was the first in 20 years to survey attitudes in the capital city. Carried out in two sessions in January and November 2010, it showed that 9 out of ten Mogadishans regarded TFG as the legitimate government of Somalia. Seventy-five percent wished in future for a government “chosen by the people in free and transparent elections.”
The research was carried out in all the districts of the capital, including areas of the city under the control of the armed opposition groups and the Afgooye corridor. The TFG controls at least 60% of Mogadishu, providing a safe haven to 80% of the capital’s population.
“The TFG is committed to safeguarding the people’s clear wish, as demonstrated by the poll for a democratically elected government. It is working towards that objective as we near the end of the transitional period,” he said. He added that the calls for reform and popular participation sweeping North Africa and the Middle East were proof that democracy is not incompatible with Islamic principles.
The Prime Minister recalled that in June 2010, the leader of the extremist opposition group, Al Shabab, Ahmed Abdi Godane, had declared that “democracy is something Allah made unlawful, and someone else cannot make it lawful. If people fight till everyone is killed, that is much easier than legalizing the devil’s principles such as constitutions.” He said that the Mogadishu poll showed that the jihadists were far removed from the popular will of the people. “In fact, 75% of the people surveyed indicated strong displeasure with the extremists and their policies,” he added.
He called on the extremists to put down their arms and to join the peace process. Seventy percent of the population recognized that the TFG was making “a great deal of effort” in reaching out to the opposition.
The poll revealed that hunger is the most pressing issue in Somalia. He called on the extremists to rescind their policy of denying people access to food provided by international aid agencies. He called on the international community to do more to ensure that the drought ravaging the country will not lead to a catastrophic famine.
“The TFG and our partners at the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) stand ready to facilitate the provision of any aid to hungry people in all areas of the country,” he said.
The poll showed that a clear majority of respondents supported the initiatives of the international community, including AMISOM in furthering the peace process as well providing healthcare and humanitarian services to the people. Seventy-five percent rated AMISOM and the AU as friends of the Somali people.
The PM also noted that the TFG is making great progress in re-establishing financial institutions and creating a culture of accountability and transparency. This would help the country’s economy recover and provide jobs, education and services. Seventy-two of the respondents in the poll had identified unemployment, lack of electricity and education as critical concerns.
The Farmajo government has only been in power for three months but has re-opened the country’s Central Bank. It has produced a national budget for the first time in 20 years, and streamlined financial reporting systems. A recent report by the International Crisis Group showed that, “TFG has been making serious attempts in recent months to inject professionalism and transparency into the revenue collection and management system. They have strengthened internal mechanisms governing dispersal of government money and create a more open and accountable fiscal system.”