12 April 2018

Somalia: Radio Shabelle Exclusive Interview With Raymond Stephens

Photo: Christina Goldbaum/IRIN
Somali soldier with Ugandan AMISOM troops.
interview

Shabelle Media Network had an exclusive interview with Raymond Stephens, the Public affairs officer of the U.S. mission to Somalia on Thursday, April 12, 2018.

1 - What is the role of the U.S.Missionin the current situation of Somalia?

The United States and Somalia have strong bilateral relations.

The United States stands alongside the Federal Government of Somalia and the Somali people as they continue rebuilding their country.

Senior members of the U.S. Mission have a close working relationship with top FGS officials and have regular communication between the Mission and senior officials.

The United States supports the building of a peaceful Somalia with a stable democratic government that can provide security and services for its citizens.

The U.S. has robust development and humanitarian assistance programs in Somalia.

The United States government is working to strengthen the foundations for a more stable, democratic, and prosperous Somalia while saving lives, alleviating human suffering, and reducing the economic impact of disasters.

Are there any projects or programs U.S.MissionSomalia is implementing now? If there are, what kind of projects or programs are they?

As I mentioned earlier, the U.S. has robust development and humanitarian assistance programs in Somalia.

The U.S. works in a variety of areas in Somalia including Democracy, Stabilization and Governance, Economic Growth, Education and Youth Engagement, and Conflict Mitigation.

The United States is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to the Somali people and the third largest donor of development assistance. The United States has contributed $420M in the last year for emergency food assistance in drought-stricken parts of Somalia.

On March 6, the U.S. Government announced more than $110m in additional humanitarian funding for the Somalia response - nearly $17m from USAID/Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, more than $59m from USAID/Food for Peace, and nearly $35m for refugee assistance.

How is the relation between U.S.Government and Federal government of Somalia?

The Chargé has developed a close working relationship with the President as well as with the Prime Minister and other senior members of the government. He usually speaks with the Prime Minister once a week and frequently meets Ministers from across government.

In his meetings with all senior government officials, they discuss how the U.S. and Somalia are working together to advance our common goals including security sector stabilization, developing strong economic structures to create opportunities for the Somali public, and creating transparent governance and financial sector reforms.

Last December, U.S. Government suspended Military assistance to Somalia because of corruption allegations, what informed that decision and what is the alternative to cutting assistance?

The United States provides over $250 million annually in security sector assistance to the Federal Government of Somalia and other African Union partners to secure and stabilize Somalia. Our short-term goal is to ensure effective counterterrorism capabilities with a long-term vision of civilian-controlled security forces able to provide security to the Somali public.

S. assistance continues to Somali National Army (SNA) units that are actively engaged in the fight against terrorists and receiving some form of mentorship from U.S. military or third-party implementers.

This pause on assistance to non-mentored units reflects an agreement between the United States and the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) to develop new criteria that meet U.S. standards for SNA units to receive U.S. assistance and that reflects the national interests of both the United States and Somalia.

Both the United States and FGS fully agree that improvements in the delivery of U.S. assistance to the SNA are required, and both sides are committed to building greater transparency and accountability in the security sector. We have begun comprehensive discussions with Somali administration and security officials to jointly develop processes in which non-mentored units will become eligible for U.S. support.

The FGS's recently released Operational Readiness Assessment (ORA) is yet another indicator of President Farmaajo's administration's strong commitment to improving transparency and accountability. We and others in the international community look forward to working with his administration to use the ORA as a tool to further these efforts. We also applaud the FGS for its renewed commitment to accountability for the Somali people.

Does the U.S. Mission have offices in Somali regional member states? If no, Why?

In all countries with which the US has a bilateral relationship, the relationship is with the federal government; the relationship is capital to the capitol in this case Washington to Mogadishu.

The U.S. has a robust presence in Mog based at the airport with plans to expand that presence, which will increase the already close cooperation between our two governments.

The State Department is building a temporary interim facility at the airport that will allow some of my staff and me to live in Mogadishu full time starting in the next few weeks.

Our permanent presence in Somalia will enable us to work more closely with Somalis to pursue our common goals of a unified, stable, and prosperous Somalia.

Is U.S. Mission actively participating in efforts to help avert recurrent famines and droughts in Somalia?

Thanks to a sizeable scale-up in humanitarian response efforts by the international community over the past year, famine has been averted thus far in Somalia. However, the risk of famine still remains.

Approximately 6.2 million people--approximately half of the total population of Somalia--are currently in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. Of these, 3.3 million are experiencing crisis and emergency levels of acute food insecurity and require immediate assistance to meet their food needs. In addition, there are more than two million people displaced inside Somalia and more than 870,000 Somali refugees in the regional drought and conflict continue to force people from their homes, disrupt livelihoods, and increase families' vulnerability to exploitation and violence.

The United States is the single largest donor to the humanitarian response in Somalia, providing more than $420 million in humanitarian assistance in the country this past year. With U.S. support, the international community reached more than 3 million people each month with life-saving assistance during the peak of the response.

And lastly, is U.S.Missiontaking part in the ongoing reconciliation efforts in Somalia?

There is no exclusive military solution to the challenges al-Shabaab poses to security and stability in Somalia. In addition to continued military pressure, it is essential that the Federal Government engage with community leaders across Somalia to address the underlying grievances that al-Shabaab continues to exploit in much of South Central Somalia.

Our efforts in Somalia should support Somali-led efforts to engage with relevant stakeholders to address grievances and determine the nature of what political agreements would be needed to ensure a more lasting political arrangement. We need to understand what would entice those within al-Shabaab to transfer loyalty to the Federal Government of Somalia.

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