23 February 2012

Somalia: Secretary Clinton's Press Briefing in London

A viable political process emerged as the key objective of the London Conference on Somalia. ( Resource: World Leaders Pledge Help For Somalia )


Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's comments on Somalia at press briefing in London.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good evening. And I want to begin by thanking the prime minister and the foreign secretary for hosting us. This has been a busy and quite substantive day, and I highly congratulate the government for making this conference one that we all felt at the end of it had been worthwhile and hopeful that we're going to be able to continue our efforts successfully. Before taking your questions, I want to touch briefly on a few highlights, both from the conference and from other meetings that I have been holding up until about 10 minutes ago.

I'll begin with Somalia. Today's conference coincided with the halfway point of the roadmap to end the transition in Somalia, which spells out the steps for building a stable government after decades of erratic rule. On August 20th of 2012, the Transitional Federal Government's mandate expires, and the international community has been clear that we do not support another extension. It is time to move forward to a more stable and unified era for the Somali people.

Today, the international community and Somali political leaders discussed what needs to happen next, in particular, the steps Somalis themselves agreed to in December: convening an assembly to approve a constitution, forming a new parliament, and electing a president and speaker. We also addressed the security dimension, from piracy to al-Shabaab. As the AU mission and the Somali national security force expand control of territory - and just yesterday, as you know, al-Shabaab lost control of a key southwestern city - we must all keep al-Shabaab on the run. That means making additional financial and training contributions to AMISOM as the United States continues to do, and implementing the Security Council's ban on imports of Somali charcoal.

Al-Shabaab's announcement recently that it has joined al-Qaida proves yet again it is not on the side of peace, stability, or the Somali people. Negotiating with al-Shabaab would be the wrong path. But the United States will engage with Somalis who denounce al-Shabaab's leadership and embrace the political roadmap and the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Somalis.

Today, I announced the United States is providing an additional $64 million in humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa, bringing our total emergency assistance, since 2011, up to more than $934 million, including more than 211 million for Somalia alone. And looking ahead, as the security and political situation improves in Somalia, the United States will consider a more permanent, diplomatic presence there.

MODERATOR: Next question, Ali Dahir, Shabelle Media Network.

QUESTION: Sorry. Thank you. Secretary of State, thank you very much. You just indicated in your speech that Somalia will inform their own parliament and choose president as well as the speaker of parliament and they will be appointed by prime minister. And Somalis are sick and tired of a political representative that has been selected rather than by - elected by Somali people. So would that mean business as usual, another years of anarchy and chaos in Somalia? Because there will be a government that does not have the trust and confidence and support of people.

Second things: U.S. policy toward Somalia was a dual-track policy which most of Somalis see this another way of dividing the country and undermining the TFG or maybe American Government. Would - that policy will be still in place after post August 2012?

And my final question is: Will you support air strike in al-Shabaab-controlled area, and will you please guarantee that there will not be a civilian casualty in Somalia? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, the roadmap calls for elections, it calls for a new parliament to be formed that is much smaller but more representative than the large, unwieldy body that exists now. But legitimacy comes through elections, so it is our intention to support very strongly the drafting of a constitution that takes into account the interests of all Somalis - not from one region, one clan, one subclan, but all Somalis; that it also is our intention to see this constitution adopted through a vote of the representatives of the people.

And I made very clear in my remarks this morning that speaking for the United States, there will be no more delays. We think the Somali people have waited long enough. And there is every reason to believe that given the right political environment, the Somalis - people of all parts of Somalia - can govern themselves very well. They do a lot of that today on their own with no help from a government in Mogadishu or any outside help.

So we have no doubt that, structured properly, the right kind of constitution, the right set of elections, the right people being elected, will put Somalia on a much more secure path forward. We also believe in a unified Somalia. Now, how Somalis themselves determine what that means is up to you. Our country has 50 states; we are a federal system. So that may be something that you would look at. Or take another example of a state that is arranged differently but takes into account the legitimate constituencies that exist throughout the country.

What was so important about this conference and why we are grateful to the Government of the UK is that it comes at the halfway point. The roadmap is six months in, six months to go.

Now regarding your last question, I think that the AMISOM forces, the TFG forces, the Ethiopian forces, others, the Kenyans who will be integrated into the AMISOM forces, are doing a very good job. We see a lot of progress on the ground. I am not a military strategist, but I think I know enough to say airstrikes would not be a good idea. And we have absolutely no reason to believe anyone - certainly not the United States - anyone is considering that. The progress that is being made on the ground by the forces who are trying to free Somalia from the grip of al-Shabaab has to continue. But it is, I think, encouraging to see how much has been accomplished.

MODERATOR: Last one today, Glen Oglaza, Sky News.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. I just wanted to pick up on the airstrikes in Somalia, first of all, because about an hour or so ago in this room, the prime minister of Somalia said that he would welcome airstrikes against al-Shabaab. So I just wondered if the Americans would contain that or possibly even participate in it.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I have to - I wasn't here to hear what the prime minister said, but I have no military rationale for airstrikes in this kind of conflict. If there is some argument to be made, I would certainly be interested in it, but I don't know who would do it.

Copyright © 2012 United States Department of State. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.