(L-R) UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Somali President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
By Abubakr Al-Shamahi
The UK has pledged to support Somalia to the tune of £180 million at the end of an international conference on the fragmented East African country, held in London on May 7.
The Somalia Conference 2013, coming a year after the last Somalia conference in London, was billed as an opportunity for the international community to support the Government of Somalia in its attempt to rebuild the country after the two decades of civil war that followed the toppling of Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991.
The conference, co-hosted by the Governments of Somalia and the UK, was attended by both Somali President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and British Prime Minister, David Cameron.
Cameron highlighted the importance that the UK Government has placed on Somalia’s future, especially with regards to the fight against what he labelled radicalism.
“… when young minds are poisoned by radicalism and they go on to export terrorism and extremism the security of the whole world, including people here in Britain, is at stake,” said Cameron.
The Prime Minister also praised President Mohamud’s “vision … in beginning the long and difficult task of rebuilding the country from the bottom up.”
For his part, Mohamud emphasised that although Somalis would ultimately need to provide the solutions to their country’s problems, they would need the support of the international community.
“It will be a Somali owned solution that will fix Somalia, but no country has ever recovered from such social and economic collapse without the help of the world,” Mohamud said in his opening address.
The Conference’s final communiqué focused on security and political progress, welcoming the scheduled 2016 elections, and the increased dialogue between different factions in Somalia, as well as the extension of the African Union’s mandate in Somalia for another year by the UN.
The communiqué also spoke of a four-year plan to create an effective police force for Somalia, doubling police numbers to around 12,000, something that the UK has got behind, with a part of the £180 million pledged going towards it.
Efforts to increase security in Somalia are central to the international community’s goal to eradicate piracy in the waters off the country, which have been frequently targeted by Somali pirates over the last few years. Although piracy is nothing compared to what it used to be, it still poses a threat to passing traffic on some of the world’s busiest shipping routes.
The Conference was attended by more than 50 delegates and organisations, including Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, and Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. It also featured a supportive video from the British-Somali Olympic champion Mo Farah.
The Somali Government continues to face numerous problems, with the militant group al-Shabab, linked to al-Qa’ida, controlling decreasing but significant territory, and regions such as Somaliland and Puntland operating completely separately from the President Mohamud’s Federal Government, and even clamouring for independence.