19 November 2017

Somalia: Govt Seeks Help From U.S. Firm to Further Relations

The Somalia government has retained a former US senator to lobby the Trump administration officials and members of Congress.

Under the terms of a recently signed contract, Somalia is agreeing to pay $120,000 (Sh12m) to a lobbying firm headed by Alfonse Marcello D'Amato, a Republican who represented New York state in the US Senate from 1981 to 1999.

The one-year deal also requires Somalia to reimburse Mr D'Amato's firm, Park Strategies, for up to $36,000 in expenses such as travel and lodging.

PARK STRATEGIES

Documents on file with the US Justice Department include a pledge by the Somali government not to use foreign aid or humanitarian funds to pay for Mr D'Amato's services.

"Park Strategies will provide strategic advice, counsel and advocacy to and on behalf of the Somali Republic in a collaborative effort to improve relations between the Somali Republic and the United States government," the lobbying contract stipulates.

Somalia's government has a life-or-death interest in ensuring that its relations with the US remain on a positive basis.

AMISOM

The US has provided Somalia with close to $2 billion in development aid and humanitarian relief during the past decade.

In addition, Washington has allocated $900 million in support of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), which includes forces from Kenya and four other East African nations.

Another $720 million in US funds have helped finance the United Nations operations in Somalia.

About 500 US troops are now on the ground inside Somalia, providing training and logistical assistance to Somalia's army in its war against Al-Shabaab.

But this bounty is not entirely secure.

CORRUPTION

Critics in the US suggest that the US should rethink its commitment to Somalia due to evidence of massive corruption on the part of political and military leaders.

State Department and UN reports indicate that Somalia's army remains incapable of effectively fighting Shabaab on its own despite a decade's worth of training by US military advisors.

Mr D'Amato, who has remained active in Republican Party affairs, appears well-placed to defend Somalia's interests in the Republican-controlled Congress.

He is also on friendly terms with the White House, having supported Donald Trump's bid for the presidency.

FIXER

As one measure of Mr D'Amato's ability to influence power brokers, he was once paid $500,000 for making a telephone call to a New York transportation official that salvaged a real-estate deal for Mr D'Amato's client, a Manhattan building owner.

He was in the news more recently for having been ordered to leave a commercial airliner that had been delayed for more than six hours for a January flight from Florida to New York.

Mr D'Amato, 80, got into a verbal altercation with the plane's crew when he encouraged passengers to ignore the pilot's request for changes in seating assignments prior to take-off.

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