Somalia has a new President democratically elected by members of both houses of the national parliament in an open and fair process witnessed by local and international observers. I congratulate President-elect Mohamed Abdullahi "Farmajo" Mohamed and wish him well as he steers the country towards a brighter future.
Despite enormous multiple challenges, Somalis have defied the odds and completed their election. A new bicameral parliament is now in place. Although a one-person one-vote election was not attained this year, the foundation stone has been laid and Somalia is now on the path towards achieving universal suffrage by 2020.
As the head of Amisom, I congratulate the people of Somalia for this feat. I thank the leadership for staying the course. The successful conclusion of the presidential election heralds a new dawn for a country that has been plagued by years of instability, devastating internal strife, cyclical drought, violent extremism and terrorism. Having worked side by side with the national security forces to secure the electoral process, Amisom takes pride in this successful collaboration. It was a gruelling but worthwhile journey that started last October and culminated in the presidential vote a few days ago. The election of the president and members of parliament is one key step ahead in the long journey Somalia has embarked on. The road ahead is bumpy and the task is arduous, but the confidence and determination of the people is a big encouragement. Let 2017 be the year of firsts for Somalia. There is an opportunity for leaders to continue to work together in building a strong partnership between the government and the people for reconciliation and national unity in an all-inclusive dialogue on power and resource sharing, job creation, women and youth empowerment, national security and development.
As Amisom marks 10 years in Somalia, the positive developments are there for all to see. The transformation is remarkable compared to a decade ago, when the AU mission first deployed in Mogadishu and armed militia gangs roamed the streets not only in the capital, but also in other major towns. Success has been registered in the health, construction and education sectors. The ordinary Somali is reaping benefits from the progress made in stabilisation. The militants may not have been totally vanquished, but have been significantly degraded and their operations remarkably curtailed. With a new government in place, one of our key priorities with the national security forces is to intensify our offensive against the terrorists, especially in vast swatches of inhabited areas, where they have sought refuge. We will work side by side with the national security forces and will not relent until the terrorists are significantly degraded and the war against violent extremism is won.
However, the AU is convinced that no matter how effective Amisom may be, it will be difficult to achieve lasting and sustainable peace and security until the national security forces are fully established and functioning. We will, therefore, continue to advocate for adequate support for Somali national security forces, not only for current and future joint operations with Amisom, but also in helping build a capable security apparatus. We will continue to insist on the need for a better coordinated, complementary and mutually reinforcing partner intervention in the security sector. In line with the envisaged drawdown of Amisom military in 2018, Amisom Police has been instrumental in strengthening policing structures throughout the country and are actively engaged in training local officers. We will continue to work closely with the national authorities and international partners in the promotion of a comprehensive approach to security, anchored on mutually reinforcing factors such as presence and adequate territorial expansion of government authority, effective state institutions and administration, democratic governance, distribution of humanitarian assistance and other essential requirements.
Lastly, the provision of services such as healthcare, and education will be essential in preventing conditions for violent extremism that lead to terrorism. I wish the Somali people a very successful 2017-2020 period.
Francisco Caetano José Madeira is the African Union (AU) Commission chairperson's special representative for Somalia and head, AU Mission in Somalia.