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U.S Government Approach to Somalia

By   /  July 24, 2009  /  1 Comment

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Ambassador Philip Carter, principal deputy assistant secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, U.S Department, lectured on the “U.S government approach to Somalia” at Chatham House on 22/07/2009, which was well attended by experts, journalists and those who are interested in the Horn of Africa affairs.

He said Somalia is facing serious political and security challenges which do not threaten Somalia only, but constitute a danger to the entire international community. Therefore, it is the responsibility of every one to stand up to this peril. It is incumbent upon the IGAD, the African Union, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the European Union to join forces and cooperate together closely to support the Somali Federal Government so that it could overcome this daunting task and succeed. The United States is working determinedly to coordinate international efforts in this regard.

He indicated that the United States is sustaining the political and reconciliation process reached in Djibouti which led to the election of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as President of the Republic, the setting up of an interim parliament for a period of two years, during which the process of stabilisation and reconciliation will be entrenched, such step is considered necessary to secure peace and stability to achieve a government of national unity, inclusive, functioning and capable of imposing its authority on the country, with its armed and security forces. By the end of this phase, the final constitutional framework for a permanent settlement will be concluded.

He stated that the security challenges to tackle are the movement of Alshabab and piracy. As far as Shaba is concerned, it is an extremist movement that has nothing to offer to the Somali people, except, violence, terrorism, amputations of hands, killing by stones, summary executions, desecration of age-old venerated shrines and the Somali religious symbols and rituals. They entertain no political programme of government. As regards piracy, it is an organised criminal activities conducted by gangs, whose only motive is to make money. They are menacing international maritime trade and pose a grave danger to international security. It has no link whatsoever to terrorism as practiced by Alshabab. It is root-cause is instability, and the only way to combat it, is to assist the transitional government to hold control of its territory so that it could eradicate all sources of instability.

He went on to say that Alshabab after witnessing that the government of Sheikh Sharif gained success in bringing about national reconciliation, winning the support of the masses and getting the backing of the international community which was embodied in the resolutions of the Brussels that committed $250 m. to build state institutions and in particular security forces. Feeling desperate and cornered, they have resorted to an assault in order to block its consolidation.

He referred to the role played by the United States in boosting the capability of the transitional government, by saying it comprises extending economic assistance, supporting the A.U forces (Amisom), provision of arms and ammunition, training of Somali security forces and offering humanitarian assistance as well as supplying basic needs to Somali refugees in camps in Kenya and other kinds of aid like medicine, food other forms of assistance given through U.N specialised agencies such as WHO, FAO, WFP and UNICEF.

In a response to a question over the position of the United States vis-a- vis the separatist movements in Somaliland and Putland, he said: “This matter is dependent on realising stability in Mogadishu and it is up to the Somalis to solve it among themselves. The American aid to these both regions is confined to providing basic and necessary humanitarian assistance which is welcomed by the provisional government in Mogadishu.

On critique addressed to the American policies towards Somalia in the last two decades and especially during the era of President Bush, he said “whatever the mistakes made in the past, the American policy has changed dramatically since President Obama came to office”.

In replying to an accusation of American encouragement of Ethiopian aggression on Somalia in December 2006, he denied that categorically, claiming that “Ethiopia had acted on its own, without being pushed by America”, which was received with astonishment and incredulity.

Arabic version of this article

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Mohamed Sharif Mohamud is vice chairman, Somali Initiative for Dialogue and Democracy, and former ambassador of Somalia and Arab League

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