US Welcomes Somalia Progress
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Saturday she was encouraged by progress that Somali leaders have made in trying to re-establish a viable central government in the East African nation where an al-Qaida-linked insurgency group still partly rules.
With the UN mandate for Somalia’s current government expiring August 20, and leaders set to vote on a new constitution, Clinton met with members of the transitional government and regional officials.
She spoke of the work needed “to support the new government and to provide the kind of international sustainability that the people of Somalia so deserve so they can have the opportunity for a peaceful future with prosperity and development for the betterment” of all Somalis.
“We are very encouraged by the progress that the leaders have been making to meet all the requirements of the road map” by the August 20 deadline, Clinton said before talks with Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed and others.
Somali leaders voted on Wednesday to approve a constitution that provides for individual rights and sets a course for a more powerful and representative government after two decades of near anarchy. Before the vote there were to big blasts at the gates of the meeting site in Mogadishu, the capital, from a failed suicide attack.
Militants from the hardline Islamist group al-Shabab were pushed out of the seaside capital last year, but still can infiltrate Mogadishu and rule south-central Somalia.
The constitution, eight years in the making, makes it clear that Islamic law is the basis for Somalia’s legal foundation. The UN hopes to make the transition to a more representative form of government, but nationwide or even regional elections appear to be years away.
Somalia has not had a powerful central government since 1991, when the president was killed and the country collapsed into chaos.
Earlier, Clinton stressed to Kenyan leaders the importance of fair and free elections, and encouraged the country to be a “model for the entire world.” She urged them to avoid a repeat of the 2007 presidential election, which resulted in widespread violence, when national voting is held next year.
After a meeting with Supreme Court Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, Clinton said the US has pledged to assist Kenyans and their government to ensure “the upcoming elections are free, fair, and transparent.”
“We urge that the nation come together and prepare for elections that will be a real model for the entire world,” Clinton said.
She also met with President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.