Somalia’s defense minister says integrating soldiers from clan militias into a national army is the military’s biggest challenge as it tries to take control of internal security. In an interview with Voice Of America from Mogadishu, Somali Defense Minister Abdelhakim Haji Mohamud Fiqi said restructuring the Somali national army to reflect the regions of the country is a top priority.
He said new soldiers are being recruited into the ranks from across the country to be trained together and top command posts also will be reformed to represent the diversity of the country. “We are transforming a clan-based militia into a national defense force, trained and equipped and well-disciplined to fight counter-insurgency and counterterrorism that will also [become] in one or two years [an] international standard army,” said Fiqi.
In March, the U.N. Security Council eased restrictions on selling arms to Somalia, lifting an embargo put in place 20 years ago to stop the sale of weapons to warlords. Minister Fiqi said the move will help the army to better equip itself, but said more logistical and financial assistance is needed from the international community. He said he hopes the London Conference for Somalia on May 7 will help to cement that support. “We expect from the London Conference, a well-coordinated international effort to rebuild our national army and security sectors, to be able to take care of our internal security,” said Fiqi.