By President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is the president of Somalia. The views expressed are his own.
The deadly attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi has reminded the world that terrorists don’t respect national borders, and people everywhere have a stake in stability and security in East Africa.
As my government marks its one-year anniversary as Somalia’s first democratically-elected administration in more than 20 years, we have made considerable progress, including driving the terrorist al-Shabaab network out of our capital, Mogadishu, and major cities and towns all around the country, as well as reforming our public financial management systems.
But the terrible assault in Nairobi underscores why the international community must continue to support state-building in Somalia. This is the message that I am bringing during my visit to the United States, including meetings with senior administration officials and members of Congress, as well as an address to the United Nations General Assembly.
In many important ways, our nation is pulling itself together after two decades of civil war. With the assistance of the African Union’s brave peacekeeping troops, we have weakened al-Shabaab while making great strides toward resolving inter-clan disputes and sharply reducing offshore piracy.
However, as we have seen in Nairobi, terrorism remains a potent threat both to Somalia and to the world at large. The United States has sacrificed blood and treasure to combat terrorism and eliminate poverty and disease in Africa. I am here to express my gratitude and to explain that much still must be done.
Now that a stable, credible and legitimate government is in place, the international community is coming to our assistance. At a just-concluded conference in Brussels, attended by representatives of the United States, Japan, China, and the Gulf countries, as well as the nations of the European Union, donors have pledged $2.4 billion for economic, security and political improvements in Somalia. We are grateful for this generous support.
Amidst all our challenges, including not only terrorism but also our precarious food security and the fact that more than four million children are out of school, Somalia faces one unnecessary obstacle: an unwarranted and unsubstantiated report on our country’s public finances by the U.N. Monitoring Group. This report could continue the collateral damage of years of war and instability: preventing international investment and aid from reaching Somalia and helping our people.
The report is inaccurate. It was written without asking our government for information. It blames our administration for conditions that existed before we took office and which we have taken strong steps to correct. And it reflects a not-so-subtle contempt for our country, as if its authors believe that Somalis are inherently incompetent and untrustworthy.
In order to obtain an accurate and informed review of Somalia’s public finances, as well as recommendations for reform, Somalia commissioned a study by a respected team of attorneys and forensic accountants from the United States and Britain, with specific experience in investigating allegations of fiscal corruption. Contrary to the U.N. Motoring Group’s charges, the investigative team accounted for all of the central bank’s disbursements, found no instances of malfeasance at the Central Bank and declared, “There is a credible system in Somalia to document government cash flows.”
Moreover, as noted by the team, our government has taken meaningful steps to reform our public financial management institutions, with the assistance of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and many others. We have improved our cash controls, moved to modernize our payment systems, published the first annual, bi-annual and quarterly reports in more than 20 years, recruited financial professionals for responsible positions, and conducted a strategic planning process that will target public resources to the most important priorities for security, the economy, education, healthcare, and infrastructure.
The international community can rest assured that, as the investigative team reported, Somalia does have a functional public management system, rooted in law and procedure, including a system of internal controls on government spending. Let me be clear: Every payment request from Somali government agencies must be routed through the Ministry of Finance and subject to a series of internal reviews and approvals by the Accountant General and other staff at the Ministry and Central Bank.
To be sure, it takes more than one year to repair more than two decades of damage. Therefore, the investigative team has proposed a series of steps – which our government has accepted and endorsed – to further improve our financial reporting and management systems.
There is still much work to be done. Our government is doing everything that we can to eradicate corruption and move forward towards reconciliation and reconstruction. For the sake of 10 million Somalis, who have suffered so much and are working so hard, I ask the entire international community – especially the United States – to help us to obtain the tools that we need to rebuild our country.