As Somalia works to rebuild its statehood, the United States of America today outlines approaches to address the security and governance challenges of the African country.
In her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on African Affairs, Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield says prior to US recognition of the Federal Government of Somalia, US Somalia policy had three primary elements.
One is to provide support for the African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM as it is commonly known, and AMISOM’s strategic partner Ethiopia, to combat al Shabaab and provide political space for the government to operate.
“Second is to respond to humanitarian crises and initiate stabilization where possible,” Ms. Greenfield said,
Finally, the US also aims to promote its “dual-track” policy.
US supports AMISOM
According to Ms. Greenfield, the US continues to support AMISOM as the primary stabilizing force in Somalia, as it expands its assistance to the Somali National Army to build its institutional and operational capacity.
She notes that from FY2007 through FY 2013, the United States obligated approximately $512 million in support of AMISOM, in addition to its assessed contributions for the UN logistics support package for AMISOM.
“During that same period, we obligated more than $170 million to support the Somali National Army to counter al-Shabaab more effectively.” – Ms. Greenfield
On humanitarian crisis
The US also has shifted focus from humanitarian crisis response, now concentrating on security and stability, laying the foundation for economic recovery through our development-focused programming.
Ms. Greenfield reports that in FY 2012 and FY 2013, the US provided nearly $140 million in funding to support Somalia’s stabilization, democracy, and economic growth activities.
On Dual track policy
According to Ms. Greenfield, US dual-track approach concluded with the successful completion of the Djibouti Peace Process and the recognition of the Federal Government of Somalia.
She says the United States has underscored the importance of outreach and engagement with the regional administrations to form the federal framework.
“We will continue to fund humanitarian assistance and civil society programs in Somaliland and Puntland, with an objective of improving regional collaboration towards federalism.” – Ms. Greenfield
She adds the US assistance to Somalia includes an emphasis on human rights and accountability, child soldier prevention, countering human trafficking, and budget transparency and fiscal management.
According to Ms. Greenfield, for the United States to effectively engage on these complex issues, understand local dynamics, build relationships, and manage its expanding programs in Somalia, the US eventually needs to establish a permanent U.S. diplomatic presence in Somalia.
“Ultimately, it is the security conditions in Somalia that will dictate when we can establish a more permanent presence and we recognize that the time is not right to do this.” – Ms. Greenfield
However, she notes they are moving in that direction.
US Recognizes new functioning democratic government of Somalia
With the recent creation of a functioning democratic government in 2012, the United States of America announced for the first time since 1991 that it is recogninzing the Government of Somalia.
In her remarks with President of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud after their meeting in Washington DC, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said it is a great privilege for the US to be welcoming President Hassan Sheikh and his delegation at the State Department.
The US wanted to work together, not only with the people of Somalia but with governments across the region, the international community, and other likeminded friends.
In early 2009, the final Transitional Federal Government began its work.
Somali security forces, supported by the African Union Mission in Somalia, and troops from Uganda and Burundi and now Kenya and Djibouti began to drive al-Shabaab out of cities and towns.
Humanitarian aid finally began getting to the people in need in the country.
The US provided more than $650 million in assistance to the African Union Mission in Somalia, more than 130 million to Somalia’s security forces.
In the past two years, the US have given nearly $360 million in emergency humanitarian assistance and more than $45 million in development-related assistance to help rebuild Somalia’s economy. And we have provided more than $200 million throughout the Horn of Africa for Somali refugee assistance.
Both countries have particular concerns about the dangers facing displaced people, especially women, who continue to be vulnerable to violence, rape, and exploitation.
Somalia elects new president
In September 2012, one week after the historic selection of a new leader in war-torn Somalia, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was inaugurated in the capital of Mogadishu.
Reports say Mohamud won the election against outgoing President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed by the legislative vote of 190 to 79.
The inauguration ceremony was reportedly participated by prominent regional leaders including the PM of Ethiopia and president of Djibouti.
New Provisional Constitution for Somalia
In August 2012, Somalia’s National Constitutional Assembly has approved a Provisional Constitution in historic vote.
Reports say the approval of the new constitution is a key milestone towards ending the country’s current transitional period.
Delegates to the Somalia’s National Constituent Assembly is a 825-member constituent assembly, with delegates representing Somali clans and civil society.
The leaders reportedly debated the constitution for nine days and approved the constitution with 621 for, 13 against and 11 abstained from voting.
The National Constituent Assembly represented the diverse concerns of the nation as it reviewed and ultimately approved the Provisional Constitution.
Somalia has been in constant wars for past two past decades since the collapse of the Somali state in January 21, 1991. Millions of lives were lost and countless number of people had been internally displaced.
Somalia is the country worst affected by a severe drought that has ravaged large swaths of the Horn of Africa, leaving an estimated 11 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.