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Stepped up al-Shabab attacks underscore Somalia’s looming security concerns

August 11, 2014 at 6:22 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Tonight, we take a look at the East African nation of Somalia. The country has been plagued by war, corruption, and terrorism, but its leader says he wants to change its course.

In September 2012, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was sworn in as Somalia’s new president in a bid to end decades of chaos, violence and poverty. After years without a central government, a new parliament elected the community activist and academic.

PRESIDENT HASSAN SHEIKH MOHAMUD, Somalia (through translator): I congratulate all the Somali people wherever they are, and I can say that we have now come back from the long days of suffering, and our feet are headed in the right path.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Somalia had suffered long years of fighting, seen a failed U.N. and U.S. mission in the early ’90s, the days of Black Hawk Down, then rampant piracy and the rise of Al-Shabab militants.

But within months of Mohamud government taking power, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the U.S. would recognize Somalia for the first time since 1991.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Secretary of State: We have moved into an era where we’re going to be a good partner, a steadfast partner to Somalia, as Somalia makes the decisions for its own future.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, security still looms large over that future. Soldiers from the African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM, patrol much the country. And the U.S. military has been training troops to help fight Al-Shabab.

The militants no longer control the capital, Mogadishu, and other cities, but they have stepped up attacks, including a recent assault on the parliament building. Last week, at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, President Mohamud blamed the militants for holding back Somalia.

In turn, opponents accuse Mohamud of corruption. This weekend, the president drew protesters, as well as greeters, in Minnesota, where he traveled to meet members of the largest Somali population in the United States.

I sat down with him on Friday, ahead of that trip.