21 January 2013

Somalia: Mohamud's Visit to United States Opens Door to Further Diplomatic Success

Mogadishu — Somali officials and civil society organisations welcomed the first United States recognition of a Somali government in over two decades, a breakthrough that many see as a sign of further diplomatic success for Somalia around the world.

The United States and Somalia on January 17th launched a new era of diplomatic relations, as Washington recognized the African nation's government for the first time since 1991. Video of joint meeting between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Washington, DC. [AFP] Play Video

The last time the United States recognised a Somali government was in 1991 before President Mohamed Siad Barre's regime collapsed, leaving Somalia a battlefield for civil strife and terrorism.

Last week, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and his delegation met with senior American officials in Washington including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, as well as officials from the World Bank.

Obama congratulated his Somali counterpart on January 13th for winning the election in September and noted "the impressive security and political gains over the past year in Somalia", according to a White House press statement.

The US president acknowledged "the many challenges facing Somalia but expressed optimism about Somalia's future, and reaffirmed his commitment to work in partnership with the new Somali government to promote peace and security, improve fiscal management, and increase the provision of social services", the statement said.

Obama urged Mohamud to "seize this unique opportunity to turn the page on two decades of civil strife in Somalia by building on the recent progress and working closely with regional and international partners to improve the lives of all Somalis".

Later that day, Mohamud and his delegation met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who formally recognised the Somali government.

"For the first time in two decades, this country has a representative government with a new president, a new parliament, a new prime minister and a new constitution," she said.

Clinton said her country is looking forward to "an open, transparent dialogue about what more we can do to help the people of Somalia realise their own dreams".

Foreign Affairs Minister Fawzia Yusuf Haji Aadan, who was travelling with Mohamud, said Somalia and the United States are initiating a new era of diplomatic relations and international co-operation.

"Our visit to the United States brightened and lit our hearts with hope that will always shine on our country," she told Sabahi.

A diplomatic milestone

Somalia's ambassador to Yemen General Ismail Qassim Naji described Washington's recognition of Somalia as a diplomatic milestone that would encourage other countries to take part in the process of rebuilding Somalia.

"We are fully capable of directing efforts and diplomatic activity towards mending diplomatic ties with American, European, Asian and African countries so we can activate our role in the international and regional organisations," he told Sabahi.

Somalia's ambassador to Zambia Mohamed Hassan Daware lauded the delegation's efforts, especially the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, to launch Somali diplomacy into the spotlight.

"We hope that our international prestige and standing will be restored within the international community after an absence of two decades due to internal fighting," Daware told Sabahi.

"We are comfortable with the decisions made by our Somali leaders with American officials in Washington and we soon expect a decision from the United Nations Security Council to lift the weapons ban that was previously imposed on our country so we can build and arm our forces in the army, police and intelligence services," he said.

Daware called on all countries to re-open their embassies and consulates in Mogadishu and for international and regional organisations to resume their activities in the Somali capital.

"We are optimistic and expect more recognition and repatriation of money, military and logistical resources in light of efforts that are under way to mobilise our American, European, Asian and African friends."

Muna Abdisalam Diriye, an international affairs analyst, said Somalia received significant support from being officially recognised by the United States and is awaiting official invitations to visit other US allies.

She said the agreements between Mogadishu and Washington are expected to lead to more countries opening embassies in Somalia and increased support from aid organisations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Bushra Issa Mohamud, a political activist working for the Somali Civil Society Association, told Sabahi the recognition was a boost for Somalia's nascent democracy. "This will allow us to take bolder and steadier steps in developing our government and social institutions," she said.

"Somalia will not retreat backwards and our people will never again be enthused about carrying arms and explosives because we have tasted the bitterness of civil war and extremely painful terrorist attacks over the years," she said.

Puntland congratulates Somali people

The Puntland administration on Sunday (January 20th) commended the Somali president and the people of Somalia as a whole for the renewed diplomatic relations between the United States and the Somali federal government.

"Puntland contributed immensely to the international effort to end the transitional period in Somalia," a statement from the Puntland administration said. "Similarly, the Puntland government continues to contribute positively to strengthening peace, security and stability across Somalia, as the government administers a vast territory constituting the most strategic area of Somalia."

"Puntland encourages the United States -- and Somalia's other partners -- to continue supporting peace and stabilisation, humanitarian aid, good governance, and economic development programmes in Somalia as a whole," it said.

The statement said Puntland expects the Somali federal government to adhere to the new constitution, complete the advancement of the federal system in Somalia, support the formation of federated states and promote "genuine national reconciliation".

Puntland also called on the federal government to "enact equitable distribution of international humanitarian and development assistance granted in the name of Somalia in a credible and transparent process".

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