WASHINGTON, D.C. – Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has told a VOA sponsored town hall meeting in London that young people are still joining the al-Shabab militant group because of the “weakness” of Somali leaders.
“The fact that al-Shabab convinces a young man to die and take his life, and we on the other hand were not able to convince them to live and get a decent life, is a weakness on our part as politicians, religious leaders, elders and women’s groups,” President Mohamud said.
The president made the comments during a lively question-and-answer session with about 80 young Somali exiles at London’s Dorchester Hotel. The program, recorded Wednesday evening, will be broadcast in its entirety on VOA’s Somali youth show, Your Call, which airs every Tuesday.
Excerpts of the interview have been airing on the VOA Somali Service’s radio programs website.
“The president’s willingness to take part in a live question and answer session is a vote of confidence in democracy and shows a willingness to engage in dialogue. We are pleased that we were able to facilitate the town hall and broadcast the program back to Somalia,” said VOA Africa Division Director Gwen Dillard.
The president was also asked about the number of young people still being recruited as suicide bombers. He said his government has plans to rehabilitate youth members who defect from al-Shabab and has processed more than 1,800 so far at a special center.
“That is where we process them, create a data base about them, keep them six to nine months and bring religious scholars to talk to them about redemption,” President Mohamud said.
He denied allegations that recent suicide bombings had been carried out by former al-Shabab members who had been released by the government. He said new recruits were coming from the Somali diaspora.
The president said unemployment is one of the reasons driving youngsters into radicalism. He said he believes securing the country will open the gates for investment and employment opportunities for youth.
VOA broadcasts around the world in 45 languages on radio, television, the Internet, and increasingly on mobile. VOA’s Somali Service is one of the most popular international broadcasters in Somalia.
For more information about this release, contact Kyle King at the VOA Public Relations office in Washington at (202) 203-4959, or write firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about VOA, visit the Public Relations website at www.insidevoa.com, or the main news site at www.voanews.com.
(This release was originally published on insidevoa.com.)