Somali leader says US-Somalia meeting is important
Mogadishu (Alshahid) — Somalia’s president on Tuesday described his upcoming meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as a “golden chance” for his war-torn country.
Clinton kicked off an 11-day Africa trip — her longest overseas journey to date as the top U.S. diplomat — by flying to Kenya where she was expected to arrive Tuesday and address an African trade and development forum.
Later in the week Clinton will meet with Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed and officials have said she will pledge more U.S. assistance, including military aid.
“My government considers the meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a golden chance for the Somali people and government,” Ahmed told journalists before departing for neighboring Kenya where the meeting will take place.
“It signals how the American government, the Obama administration and the international community are willing to support Somalia this time,” said the president, referring to past pledges of support that have not materialized.
Many nations that have pledged money or other support to Somalia have been wary to give it because the country has been mired in anarchy and chaos since warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other.
The lawlessness also has allowed Somali pirates to flourish, making the nation the world’s worst piracy hotspot.
Some of the aid to the Somali government is channeled through the U.N. Development Program that administers programs to train government officials, among other things.
Ahmed’s shaky government is fighting Islamist extremists, who have been trying to overthrow the Somali government for 2 1/2 years. In May, there was an upsurge of violence that saw up to 200 civilians killed.
Ahmed, a moderate Islamic leader, was part of the Islamic group trying to overthrow the government but became president in January 2009 under an intricate peace deal that the United Nations mediated.
Over the weekend, U.S. officials said the Obama administration plans to go ahead with additional weapons supplies to double an initial provision of 40 tons of arms. The U.S. also has begun a low-profile mission to help train Somali security forces in Djibouti, which neighbors Somalia, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivities surrounding U.S. involvement in the program.
In April, the U.S. and other western nations pledged more than $250 million to strengthen Somalia’s security forces. The package pledged included funding for military equipment and material as well as development aid.