Somalia readies for conference

Somalia readies for conference

Somalia readies for conference

An armed member of the militant group al-Shabaab attends a rally on the outskirts of Mogadishu on Feb 13. Thousands of Somalis gather at a militant-organized demonstration in support of the merger of the Somali militant group al-Shabab with al-Qaeda, which was announced last week by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri. The group also slams United Kingdom for its ‘colonization attempts’ on Somalia. AP photo

Al-Shabaab insurgents staged rallies across Somalia on Feb. 13 to celebrate their group’s recognition by Osama bin Laden’s successor as a member of the al-Qaeda network.

“The unification of al-Shabaab with al-Qaeda breaks the hearts of the enemy,” al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told a crowd of several hundred in rebel-held Afgoye, just outside Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

Extremists chanting anti-Western slogans ordered people to attend the rallies, witnesses said. “Businesses were shut after al-Shabaab fighters in cars with loudspeakers ordered people to attend the demonstration,” said Mohamed Sufi, a witness.

Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri announced in a video message posted on jihadist forums last week that al-Shabaab fighters had joined ranks with the network.

Al-Shabaab insurgents, fighting to overthrow the weak Western-backed government in the war-torn Horn of Africa country, proclaimed their allegiance to then al-Qaeda chief bin Laden in 2009. Several demonstrations also took place across al-Shabaab-held southern Somalia, including the port city of Merka, where extremist gunmen ordered people to shut down businesses to attend the rally.

‘Imperious nature of the Brits’
Amid the celebrations, the group has also slammed British efforts to address the multiple crises in the war-torn nation as “another attempt to colonize Somalia.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron will chair a Feb. 23 conference in London, gathering Somali and foreign leaders to find a solution to the civil unrest that has plagued Somalia almost without interruption since 1991.

“It’s the imperious nature of the Brits that sees them meddling in Islam affairs in the hope of reviving a hopeless dream of a British Empire,” the al-Shabaab Twitter website read.

The meeting will “help galvanize a common approach to address the problems and challenges of Somalia that affect us all,” Britain’s Foreign Office said. U.S. President Barack Obama and Cameron, meanwhile, discussed security threats in Somalia on Feb. 13, the White House said. Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali also said Feb. 13 he hoped the conference would produce a “Marshall Plan” to end two decades of chaos.

“Somalia expects a lot from this conference. We expect the establishment of a trust fund for Somalia. We expect a complete reconstruction plan for Somalia. We expect a Marshall Plan for Somalia,” he told Agence France-Presse in an interview.

The Marshall Plan was the large-scale U.S. program to aid Europe in which the United States gave monetary support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II in order to combat the spread of Soviet communism.