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Just a day after marking the 52nd anniversary of Somalia's independence from Italy and the subsequent union of the southern and northern regions of Somalia on July 1, 1960, al-Shabaab, the hardline Islamic group battling for control of the country, mocked the day calling it a day of occupation referring to the multinational forces in the country.
In a statement protesting the latest celebrations of independence, the pro-al-Shabaab website Amiirnuur slammed Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM), and the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) for “misleading the people of Somalia by celebrating an independent day that does not exist in Somalia at this time."
Amiirnuur further elaborated that Somalia is at war and does not yet have its own freedom due to foreign aggression.
“Is Somalia yet an independent country? Somalia’s western backed semi-autonomous and transitional government are in alliance with Ethiopia and Kenya that invaded our soil. There remains the persistence of antagonism between these countries and our people especially the Ethiopians and Kenyans," the statement said.
“They are rejoicing as the country’s natural resources remain administrated by foreign corporations and the destiny of our country is going beyond Mahiga (referring to the UNPOS Ambassador). The TFG celebrates the union and independence while the second shoulder of north Somaliland still remains separatist. (Somali President) Sharif’s government commemorates independence as the country’s constitution is in the hands of foreign states," the website said in a statement, referring to the draft constitution.
Celebrations of Independence
Somalia's national day was recognized in and outside of the country including Mogadishu, Galkayo, Baidoa, Kampla, Djibouti, Nairobi, Dubai, and Istanbul, to name a few cities that held celebrations.
One of largest events was held inside the presidential state house of Villa-Somalia and was attended by government officials, including President Sharif. At the closing ceremony around midnight, all the attendees stoop up simultaneously and started singing Somalia's national song with the flag waving high above.
Security was tightened before the event and troops deployed throughout the area.
“Tonight, I’m very proud to be congratulate to you on the anniversary of our Independence Day of July 1st and the unity of our southern and northern regions," the president said in his speech to the gathered crowds and broadcasted live by the local television stations in Mogadishu.
"For this opportunity I am going to send my best gratitude to the Somali national armies who have shown courage in the fight against terrorists in our country. I pray for those who died in the cause of our people and our country. I hope one day Somalia will be a great nation far from the chaos of the last 21 years," he added.
In Baidoa, the capital of Bay region, thousands of residents celebrated in a football stadium inside the town where the city’s commissioner, Abdi Fitaah Ibrahim Geesey, spoke to the crowds.
On behalf of the United States and President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton sent a message of congratulations to the government and the people of Somalia.
"As you celebrate your Independence Day, know that you have a dedicated partner in the people of the United States. Our support for Somalia and the Somali people will continue beyond the end of the transition. We stand with the people of Somalia on your path toward peace, stability, prosperity," she said in a statement.
National Day had been rarely celebrated in Somalia since 2006 when Islamist revolutionists emerged to implement a strict interpretation of sharia law through most of Somalia's southern and central regions including the capital of Mogadishu. In August of last year, AMISOM forces pushed the militants from the capital and are continuing to pursue them towards Kismayo, the al-Shabaab stronghold in southern Somalia.
As part of the anniversary celebrations, former Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullah pleaded with the government to grant amnesty to many of the young Somalis jailed on suspicion of being al-Shabaab, as has previously been authorized.