Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud says the Somalia-based al-Shabab militant group is a regional enemy that needs to be confronted.
He was speaking exclusively to VOA Somali, three days after al-Shabab gunmen stormed and massacred 148 people at Garissa University in northeastern Kenya.
The president expressed horror and sadness at the Garissa attack. He said al-Shabab’s aim to target mostly Christians in Kenya is to separate Muslims and Christians in that country, but he said that objective has failed because Kenyans understand the militants’ tactics.
The president said he spoke with Kenyan leaders and urged Kenyans to unite and confront al-Shabab militants. President Mohamud said the group is an “enemy that has no dignity.” “They kill Somalis and their leaders,” and there is nowhere in Islam that says “kill non-Muslims.”
Asked why terror attacks on Kenyan soil have increased recently, and whether Kenya has learned any lessons from previous attacks, the president said al-Shabab can’t target military and government institutions, but now only targets vulnerable areas because it’s easy for them. He said this tactic shows that they are in a desperate mood and are coming to an end.
Some political leaders in Kenya have urged the repatriation of Somali refugees from the Dadab camp in the wake of last week's attack, accusing them of being responsible for the insecurity in Kenya. The Somali president rejected that allegation, saying “there is no connection between refugee camps and terrorism activities.” He said one refugee can join the group, but that the majority of the Somali refugees are peace-loving people who reject al-Shabab militants.
Asked about Kenya’s plan to build a wall along the border to keep out al-Shabab attacks, the president said he heard it from the media, but he said a wall will not stop al-Shabab’s “hostility.” He said we are fighting an “ideology, not fighters,” so a separation barrier can’t solve the problem.
Al-Shabab militants claim their attack on Kenya was revenge for Kenya’s involvement in Somalia, and they call on Kenya to withdraw from Somalia. But the Somali president rejected that assertion and said, “It’s a propaganda.” He said the Kenyan people and their leaders stand together in support of Somalia, and that Somalia appreciates that support.
Finally, asked if his government is ready to talk to al-Shabab to resolve the problem, he said his government has offered an amnesty to al-Shabab militants. He said many fighters and leaders accepted that offer and the government has welcomed them, but he said his government will continue to talk to anyone in the al-Shabab group who is willing to denounce violence.