The new government of conflict-ridden Somalia has been pushing hard for more economic assistance – and this week, during high-level talks with top donors in Washington, its calls appear to have been heard.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud met with World Bank President Jim Kim, President Barack Obama and other top U.S. officials to discuss a new phase of development cooperation. And on Thursday (Jan. 17), the United States became the latest country to officially recognize the Somali government as legitimate – the first time the U.S. had done so since 1991.
No public announcements were made on new financial support, but negotiations continue and are likely to bear fruit. Development cooperation is expected to focus on strengthening the African country’s governance, security and economic growth. The United States, for one, is eager to strengthen Somalia’s resilience and assist the Somali people to rebuild institutions and infrastructure, said U.S. Agency for International Development Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg, who hosted a development roundtable with Mohamud on Jan. 16.
A day later, at a press conference with the Somali president, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said: “I believe that our job now is to listen to the government and people of Somalia, who are now in a position to tell us, as well as other partners around the world, what their plans are, how they hope to achieve them. So we have moved into a normal sovereign nation-to-sovereign nation position, and we have moved into an era where we’re going to be a good partner, a steadfast partner, to Somalia as Somalia makes the decisions for its own future.”
Clinton highlighted terrorism and the plight of displaced people, especially women, as key challenges in the region, as well as the need to fight corruption, build democratic institutions, protect human rights and build the Somali economy, which has been reeling after years of bloodshed and regular droughts.
U.S. funding to Somalia in recent years includes $650 million in assistance to the African Union Mission in Somalia, more than 130 million to Somalia’s security forces, nearly $360 million in emergency humanitarian assistance and more than $45 million in development-related assistance to help rebuild Somalia’s economy in last two years, and more than $200 million throughout the Horn of Africa for Somali refugee assistance.
USAID projects include the Transition Initiatives for Stabilization, Somali Youth Leadership Initiative, as well as support for the young Somali parliament.
Mohamud’s meeting with Obama at White House indicates how serious the United States takes its relations with the leader of a country that harbors a fair share of extremists and pirates that have been disrupting sea commerce on the Indian Ocean and through the Suez channel.
The formal recognition of the elected Somali government enables ”new relationships” not only with USAID and other government departments, but other donors as well, the State Department promptly announced.
Such broad-based collaborations will be necessary to ensure peace, security and the provision of basic services such as health care, education and jobs, especially for the Somali refugees who have been returning in droves from neighbor countries like Kenya.
Mohamud visit with the World Bank president follows on the heels of a meeting he held Jan. 10 at his presidential residency in Somalia with the bank’s Country Director Bella Bird and others.
“Somalia needs to reinstate operations with the World Bank family; we believe the World Bank can play an important role in the reconstruction of Somalia, as well as the rebuilding of our public financial institutions,” Mohamud said after that meeting. “We are committed to bring forward the best people we have to work with you so our financial institutions can begin to function well, but we need your support”
Several countries had now signed bilateral agreements, and some, like Japan, recognized the government even before the United States did this week.
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