Washington — Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman became the first senior U.S. official to visit Mogadishu, Somalia, in more than 20 years November 4, reflecting the United States' commitment to support efforts by Somalia's leaders to stabilize the Horn of Africa nation after more than 20 years of civil strife and violence.
Sherman, who is the under secretary for political affairs, met with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mahamud, Speaker of the Federal Parliament Mohammed Osman Jawari, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Force Commander Lieutenant General Andrew Gutti, the U.N. deputy special representative of the secretary-general for Somalia, and leaders of Somalia's civil society and business community, according to the State Department. They met at Mogadishu's Aden Abdulle International Airport.
"Sherman welcomed the announcement by Somalia's Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon that he has named his new cabinet," the department said in a prepared announcement following her visit. Sherman said the United States is pleased to see that the new cabinet includes two women, which is a positive sign of the crucial role women play in Somali life.
According to published news reports, Somalia's parliament is expected to meet shortly to consider the new cabinet.
Sherman stressed her conviction that Somalia is now a place of hope, not of despair, and she congratulated the Somali leadership on the political progress made in Somalia, including the August 20 formation of Parliament and the September 10 election of President Hassan Sheikh.
The United States has provided humanitarian and security assistance to the Eastern African nation, which is bordered by the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean in the Horn of Africa.
"The U.S. assistance is quite visible and we foresee more aid in the future on the rebuilding of Somalia," Hassan Sheikh told journalists. He noted the need for closer ties with the United States to strengthen stabilization and enhance economic development.
The under secretary affirmed the centrality of the Somali government and people in guiding international support to the country.
Sherman "urged the Somali leadership to continue to consolidate gains by helping local governance structures emerge through community dialogue and reconciliation, rapidly providing services, drafting legislation to facilitate implementation of the provisional constitution adopted in August, and addressing al-Shabaab defectors and the charcoal stockpile in the port city of Kismayo," the department announcement said.
Sherman also congratulated AMISOM Force Commander Gutti for AMISOM's recent success in driving the extremist group al-Shabaab out of significant population centers and acknowledged the courage and professionalism of the AMISOM forces in achieving these gains.
"Ambassador Sherman underscored the continued U.S. commitment to support AMISOM and the Somali national forces in their critically important responsibility of extending security throughout Somalia," the State Department said.
Sherman also congratulated the Somali business community for its efforts to sustain the Somali economy during Somalia's 20 years of civil conflict. She congratulated Somali civil society for its provision of services to the Somali people in the lack of a functioning government.
Sherman is scheduled to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia from October 29 through November 8, according to the State Department.
"Under Secretary Sherman will further numerous objectives during her trip, including advancing regional security, promoting strong democratic institutions, extending U.S. appreciation for African peacekeeping efforts, and leading the first meeting of the U.S.-South Africa Bilateral Working Group on African and Global Affairs," a department announcement said.