Sabahi (Washington, DC)

1 April 2013

Somalia: Arab League Voices Support for Somalia

Mogadishu — Following Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud's appeals for help from the international community to rebuild his country, the Arab League ended its 24th Summit last week in part by calling on its members to give Somalia such support.

The League of Arab States, as it is formally known, lauded Somalia's political progress and the restoration of the state and its components.

"We welcome success achieved by the Republic of Somalia and progress made in the political process, including the election of president and speaker of parliament, the parliamentary confidence won by the prime minister, and the restoration of constituents of state," the Arab League said in its final statement Tuesday (March 26th), read by Deputy Secretary General of the Arab League Ahmed bin Hilli.

"We also welcome the steady improvement in security, and express our appreciation of the role of the African Union Mission in Somalia and its co-operation with the Somali government's forces in restoring security and realising stability," the statement said.

In response to a request from Mohamud, who was making his first appearance at an Arab League Summit, the league also urged the international community to show support for Somalia by re-opening embassies and diplomatic missions in Mogadishu.

"We call on member states and world countries to provide all forms of political and financial support and technical assistance to Somalia to enable it to continue to make political progress and enhance security, and to help the country build state institutions and reconstruct itself," the statement said.

"We urge member states and world countries to enhance their presence in Somalia by re-opening their diplomatic missions in Mogadishu to show support and rekindle hope and re-establish confidence in Somalis and to support their national unity," it said.

During his speech at the summit, Mohamud called on Arab leaders to help Somalia by creating a reconstruction fund. He also requested that all of Somalia's debt and financial obligations from the past 20 years be forgiven in order to ease the new government's financial burden.

The Arab League Summit was held March 26th-27th in Doha, hosted by the emir of Qatar. "Arab countries should lend a helping hand to the new government of Somalia," Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani said in his opening remarks.

Reactions to the Arab League Summit:

Mohamed Omar Talha, a Somali parliamentarian and member of the Arab Inter-parliamentary Union, welcomed stronger support from Arab nations.

"In the past, Arab interest in Somalia has been insufficient and the support provided by Arab countries to Somalia has been weak," he said. "Somalia is an Arab Muslim country and Arabs have to renew their commitment towards Somalia and support efforts geared towards lifting the country out of its current situation."

He said he hopes Arab countries become more interested and support the new Somali government in re-building state institutions and achieving stability, security and development.

"We hope that Arab support of Somalia is not limited to aid sent to Somalia during the outbreak of humanitarian crises such as famine," he told Sabahi.

Ambassador Mohamed Abdullahi Idris, who heads the Arab League diplomatic mission to Somalia, said it was unfair to characterise Arab support for Somalia as insufficient because it has included political, financial and humanitarian support, as well as reconstruction efforts.

"Arab support for Somalia has not stopped at any point during the period of conflict and civil war," he told Sabahi, pointing out that diplomatic ties with Sudan, Yemen, Libya, Djibouti and the Arab League remained continuously open. "The Arab League has always stood by Somalia to provide all the necessary support for Somalis."

"Since the deterioration of the humanitarian crisis in Somalia in mid-2011, significant and urgent humanitarian aid has been sent from all Arab countries. In addition, several Arab humanitarian agencies and organisations opened permanent offices in Mogadishu providing aid to the people of Somalia," he said.

Arab organisations with offices in Mogadishu include the Saudi Red Crescent, the Saudi International Islamic Relief Organisation, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, the Saudi Physicians Across Continents, the Sudanese Islamic Dawah Organisation, the Sudanese Patient Support Fund, the Qatari Red Crescent, the Qatar Charitable Society, the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent, the Kuwait Direct Aid Society, the Algerian Association of Guidance and Reform, and the Arab Doctors Union.

"The humanitarian support provided by Arab humanitarian organisations and agencies left a good impression with the Somali people, as they felt during the famine crisis that they had Arab brothers to stand by them during times of difficulty," said Mogadishu-based political analyst Hassan Omar Abdullahi, although he expressed the view that Arab support has been insufficient.

Abdullahi said an effective Arab role is indispensable to rebuilding Somalia.

"Arab countries should play an active role in reconstruction efforts and provide the necessary support for the new Somali government in its efforts to build its security institutions, as well as contributing towards advancing sustainable development in the country," he told Sabahi.

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