BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Africa
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Somalia Analyst Patrick Gilkes
"People are fed up with a decade of war"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 29 August, 2000, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
Somalia's new civilian leader
Abdulkassim Salat Hassan
Mr Hassan was accompanied by neighbouring leaders
Abdulkassim Salat Hassan is Somalia's first civilian president since the overthrow of the central government nearly 10 years ago.

A long-serving minister in the former regime of Siad Barre, the 58-year-old Muslim family-man was elected by a new parliament following three months of talks in the neighbouring state of Djibouti.

Speaking at his inauguration in the Djibouti resort town of Arta, Somalia's newly-elected president pledged to restore order in his homeland, but he faces a tough task.

After the collapse of the Somali Government in 1991, Mr Hassan opted to leave the country and lived in Cairo.

A few years later he returned to the country and started working with grassroots groups on peace.

Educated and backed

Educated in Somalia and abroad, he speaks Somali, Arabic, Italian, English and Russian.

Somalia: Can he persude faction leaders to give up their power?
And the former interior minister and deputy prime minister has already won public backing from the United Nations, the European Union and the Arab League.

Sudan and Djibouti are likely to provide financial support as he seeks to end Somalia's civil war.

But the son of a traditional leader faces an almost "impossible task", as he himself has admitted in an interview with the UN news group IRIN.

Opposition ahead

Warring faction leaders control the country and most of the important ones have vowed to block his attempts to re-impose central government in the capital, Mogadishu.

Somalia street scene
Ordinary Somalis are tired of war
They view the new parliament as a threat to their continued domination of the country.

So it is likely he will set up his administration in the southern town of Baidoa, which is in the hands of a faction backing the new parliament.

He does have the backing of the Islamic Courts in Somalia who run their own militia and have pledged to help him establish his government in Mogadishu.

And Mr Hassan also has the support of business leaders in Mogadishu. News of his election was greeted by a string of impromptu street celebrations across the capital.

He says he is prepared negotiate with faction leaders - especially those in the north who have some support.

Articulate and outspoken

He has good contacts and is known to be both outspoken and articulate.

But how many faction leaders are prepared to talk to him is unclear.

He has close personal relations with the leader of the self proclaimed Republic of Somaliland, Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, who he visited in Hargeisa twice last year.

But even there, its leader Mohammed Egal says he does not recognise Mr Hassan's election.

Somalia's new president says he is optimistic that the people will force faction leaders to change their attitudes.

"They cannot stand against the will of the people, their own clan," he says.

Some observers believe Mr Hassan has more of a chance of success than the 12 previous attempts to restore central government, as he is a member of the Hawiye clan, which dominates Mogadishu.

It remains to be seen how successful he will be - but for the moment Somalia is hopeful that the new president represents the best hope for peace for quite some time.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

Is it a new beginning for Somalia?Somalia
A new president for a new beginning?
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Africa stories