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As allied forces make gains against hardline Islamic forces of al-Shabaab, Somalia's Bay region has become a hot spot for battles, with it's strategic capital, Baidoa, now in the hands of forces from Somalia's Transitional Federal Government and Ethiopia. To learn more about the political and military reality in the region, Somalia Report journalist Leila Aden interviewed TFG chairman in Bay region, Abdifatah Ibrahim Gesey.
Honorable Abdifatah Gesey, thanks for giving this exclusive interview to Somalia Report. Briefly tell us about the political landscape of the region and in particular Baidoa?
Thanks. The political condition of the region is secure despite the fact that there are some disturbing elements that al-Shabaab remnants are trying to cause havoc in the town. Nonetheless, I can assure you that everything is stable and going in the right manner.
There have been a number of pre-planned attacks that have occurred in the town since you took over the administration. Can you please comment on the nature of these attacks?
I know and am aware about this, but I can assure you and the people here that we have taken measures to curb and prevent such kind of attacks. I urge that the residents to report suspicious element so that we can take action against them accordingly.
There have been remarkable achievements as far territorial gains are concerned in recent weeks. Can you tell us the next step?
Although I do not want to discuss our military plans with media, in near future we will ensure that the Islamists are no longer in the region. I can assure you that we have tightened the security in the areas we control.
What is the mood of the people in Bay region now that al-Shabaab has been kicked out of many villages and towns?
Thanks for asking me such this essential question. It is the nature of the TFG forces whenever they capture a region to allow people to live freely and carry out their business and have social interaction without fear. Our brave forces will continue to ensure that people in Bay region are safe. During the dark times when the extremists were controlling the region, they used to restrict and punish innocent people without reason. We have really received a cordial welcome from Bay residents and they are now feeling freedom.
Residents have been complaining about brutal harassment being subjected by TFG forces and there have been many arrests. What can you say about this?
It is true that TFG forces carried out some simple exercises and operations whose main objective was to restore law and order and limit the insecurity, but that does not mean we treat them badly. We are here to serve them and guarantee their security.
What tangible evidence can you tell us that Bay residents are fully supporting your mission to get rid of al-Shabaab?
You can just ask any independent source to give comments pertaining our administrative policy and I am sure they will give you positive comments and it goes without saying that they are enjoying their fundamental rights denied to them by the insurgents.
People have been lacking basic services including medical services since al-Shabaab suspended aid agencies in one way or the other. What have you done about this?
We have liberated the militia group of al-Shabaab from most of the region and also created a conducive atmosphere for non-government organizations (NGOs) willing to continue their work here. Once more, I invite the NGOs to come back and continue providing their services to the Somali people.
Is your administration planning to create job opportunities for the young generation in the region?
Yes, this is one of my first priorities and I hope some of young men who were misled by al-Shabaab will return and surrender to TFG for the job opportunities I am promising to provide to my people.
Do you know exactly where al-Shabaab forces are in the region?
No, really because there is no specific area they stay now. They move to different areas to hide themselves in the forests, but our forces are after them and soon will reach even where their top leaders are hiding.
Any additional message that you want to convey to the people of Bay region?
Yes. I would like to encourage the people of the region to make use of this opportunity and try to enhance their economic capacity by investing in all available opportunities. I also encourage them to consider peace and harmony as their first priority and to report any suspicious activities. With your support, we can take effective action against anyone caught under such scenarios. I also remind them to consider our armies as an integral part of their lives and work with them where necessary.
Thank you, Honorable Abdifatah Ibrahim Gesey, for giving this opportunity to Somalia Report.