Somalia’s President Visits Europe

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February 11, 2013
The new government of Somalia has been making itself known to an international audience these last two weeks with the visits of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, to various countries including the US, Belgium and the UK. He is now in Cairo for the Summit of the Organization of Islamic Conference. It was during his visit to Washington, that the US government announced its recognition of the Somali government and this can be expected to contribute to Somalia’s efforts to consolidate recent gains, to help it build the different institutions necessary for lasting peace and improve the provision of goods and services. The government also hopes this round of visits to the US and Europe will ensure Somalia’s tangible support from the international community to support the assistance from AMISOM and IGAD member countries in terms of securing peace and security.

The President’s visit to Europe commenced with a visit to Brussels as we noticed last week when he met the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, the EU’s 27 foreign ministers, and the European Parliament’s development and foreign affairs committees. In speaking to the European MPs, the President highlighted that the greatest hurdle to Somalia had been the absence of the establishment of a legitimate, functioning government and society. He noted that to address the outstanding problems the country faces, the Somali government was now concentrating on three main priorities to ensure stability: security, judicial capacity, and the public financing of state institutions. The President also met with European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Union President, Herman Van Rompuy, and the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz. President Mahamud told European officials that Somalia was on a "path to transforming and taking its rightful place in the community of nations". It needed to move from being a country “in relief” to one in recovery. Somalia could not do this alone and his Government needed the support of the whole international community. He said it needed an engagement that looked like the Marshall Plan, the US-funded plan to rebuild Europe after World War II.

President Mohamud then went on to the UK where he met and held discussions with Prime Minister, David Cameron, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague, and the UK Development Secretary, Ms. Justine Greening.  Talks covered a range of issues including the current situation in Somalia and the planned conference on Somalia to be held in London in May. It will be co-hosted by the British Prime Minister and by President Mohamud. During the visit, the UK promised an additional £3 million in aid to Somalia. This is earmarked as support for Somalia’s new government and federal parliament; and also for the provision of food for up to 60,000 malnourished children and mothers. This is in addition to the £63 million in aid that the UK has already pledged to Somalia. President Hassan also got an assurance of UK’s commitment to help the Somali people create a secure and stable country after two decades of conflict. The UK also announced the launching of a joint program with Norway to host Somali parliamentarians to receive advice and training from parliamentary and constitutional experts. The program will help young Somali graduates participate in internships at the new House of the People’s Representatives. It is intended to give valuable experience and training to a new generation of public servants and so help to establish peace and democracy in Somalia.

There is general agreement that as the situation in Somalia improves, it is important to consolidate nascent government institutions in Mogadishu and elsewhere, making the government legitimate in the eyes of its citizens and the international community. The creation of a functioning state remains crucial. Despite the improvement of the security situation, serious challenges remain and much further work is needed to consolidate liberated areas, clearing out the remnants of Al-Shabaab and discouraging any recruitment by extremist groups. One solution is to create an acceptable environment for the people of Somalia, especially for the younger generations, providing access to schools and creating job opportunities. The international community’s help in this regard is an absolute necessity and promised assistance from international financial institutions and from countries like the UK and Norway is a good start. It is, however, critical that all assistance is rendered in a coordinated manner among the different stakeholders and that it is also in line with the priorities of the Government of Somalia.

On Tuesday, President Mohamud arrived in Cairo to take part in the Summit of the Organization of Islamic Conference. He is accompanied by a high level delegation including Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Fowzia Adan. It is the President’s first visit to an Islamic summit, and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has called on Arab countries to contribute to the reconstruction of Somalia. Using his Twitter account, President Morsi said "with the end of the transitional period in Somalia and the election of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, we must support the efforts of reconstruction of this brotherly country." President Mohamud has met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to review their bilateral relations. President Ahmadinejad, who said Iran will support the process of progress in Somalia, noted that Somalia enjoys rich resources which should be used in order to make further development. President Mohamud is expected to hold a number of other bilateral meetings to request support for the new government in Somalia. He will also meet the Somali community on Cairo. (MoFA)