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An Interview With Ambassador Marika Fahlen, Sweden’s Special Envoy For The Horn Of Africa
“There Is A Risk That Somaliland’s Reputation To Democratize Itself And Hold Elections Will Fall Over The Cliff”
“We Think That The President Riyale Has Taken An Unwise Decision And We Hope He Will Reverse His Decision”
Lund, Sweden, August 15, 2009 – The 8th annual conference of the Horn of Africa was held in Lund, Sweden this month. And like all previous years, the conference was filled with good speeches, great presentations and umpteen academic discussions. This year, the theme was the environment, but the timeless and placeless subject of politics somehow creeped into the conversation.
Among the distinguished attendees was H. E. Ambassador Marika Fahlen, Sweden’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. She sat down with Ahmed Gure, the founder and managing director of Hiiraan Online.
HOL: Sweden being the president of European Union, What can Somalia expect from Sweden?
Ambassador Marika Fahlen: Sweden Starts the presidency of the EU on 1st of July and runs to the end of this year and in July there was a focus on Somalia so on the 27th of July the foreign ministers of EU, the 27 countries agreed on a policy for Somalia to expand its engagement as it was possible to do that given the difficult Somalia particularly in south and central and we will now follow this political commitment to further exploratory work and to have dialogue between Somalis and also the region to see what is the best way for EU to support Somalia.
HOL: Given commitments US is taking in helping Somali government, what is the role of the EU and particularly Sweden in rebuilding Somalia National Forces?
Ambassador Marika Fahlen: In this political commitment, support to security and stabilization is an important part, and on the 23rd of April, EU hosted a donor conference for the security and stabilization in Somalia. It was two objectives one was to look at how to build the capacity of AMISOM to support dialogue and reconciliation and to check the institutions and to enlarge the safe areas for the people that was one thing. AMISOM is funded for contributions. The other thing was to support reconstruction, the security sector for the TFG, national security service including rule of law and this regard there must be several things in place one is transparent security policy developed in a process that as you say possible, but is transparent, clear criteria for how security forces will be recruited, composed and what type of chain of command will be there be for this force, and what accountability criteria will be applied so whenever there is misconduct of members of the security force there will be consequences, disciplinary consequences, how to respect human rights and protection of the people as a primary task of the security force. This will be there and it was also include as it may turn feasible training members of such security forces.
HOL: As you know Somali journalists are under a serious threat because of their activities inside Somalia. They have been threatened and some of them have even been killed this year. They are under constant danger. Is there any way that the international community and Sweden in particular can help Somali journalists inside Somalia?
Ambassador Marika Fahlen: First of all, we condemn the attacks on media workers and journalists and I think 14 media workers have been killed in this past year in Somalia. It is a serious crime and it is also a violation of the right of people to have access to free information. We want as a matter of principle to protect the free flow of information and for this we need several outlets for journalists. The journalism should be correct information on the situation and one should not confuse media work with propaganda. We see media work as a professional task and we see that the public have the right to get this information.
We condemn the restriction of media work in Somaliland, in Puntland and in south and central. The situation in south and central is that we have death threats on journalists. In other parts of Somalia there have been other restrictions of free media. We support the National Union of Somali Journalists. They do courageous work and we will continue to see what can be done. Whether it’s an issue of training, but primarily it’s an issue of security and it’s an issue of disrespect of free flow of information. So to protect the media workers you need a respect of that media work should be allowed wherever it is. We just want to say that the media workers are doing a fantastic and courageous job in Somalia.
HOL: On the issue of Human Rights in Somalia, both the government and the insurgence are accused of committing crimes against the public at large. Does Swedish government support the indictment to those who have been found that they committed crimes against humanity??
Ambassador Marika Fahlen: It is no doubt that there has been serious crimes committed to civilian population in Somalia in the last 20 years and particularly in the last 3 years, and more recently since May of this year there have been many atrocities taking place. There are three things on the issue of human rights. One is to monitor and the other is to report on the abuses and violations and the third is to make those who are committing such crimes are brought to justice. That is to address the impunity that has been prevailing in Somalia in the absence of the justice system. There is also an issue that Somalia needs to take greater ownership on Human rights. Which is why we suggest a human rights commission in Somalia which is inclusive of government, civil society, opposition? That could first identify which atrocities have been committed and then how to address those crimes and if it’s possible we are ready to support technically the TFG and local administration.
HOL: On the upcoming election in Somaliland, there is a problem relating to voter registration which may once again delay the election. Somaliland is a peaceful place and now that stability is being threatened by this election. Do you think this election will proceed as planned?
Ambassador Marika Fahlen: First we support the election through voter registration. What is essential in this election that it takes a step further of the last election where there was no voter registration? What is important that the three political parties including the government party in working on a consensus. What is important is the government political party does not have any privileges when it comes to access to resources, information, media for the campaign. It must be completely equal for all three parties. We think that the president has taken an unwise decision and we hope he will reverse his decision and return to what is international standards for the elections. We think that the elections should take place on the 27 of September but what is happening is making it increasingly difficult. We hope that if this is allowed to continue, there is a risk that Somaliland’s reputation to democratize itself and hold elections will fall over the cliff and that will not be good for Somaliland.
Source: Hiiraan Online, August 13, 2009