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Clinton Sees Opportunity for Somalia as AMISOM Expands Mission

By Stephen Kaufman | Staff Writer | 23 February 2012
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sheikh Sharif Ahmed shaking hands (AP Images)

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets Somali Transitional President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed on the sidelines of the London conference.

Washington — As the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) prepares to expand its area of responsibility beyond Mogadishu, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the world can now focus on how to build up Somalia after spending decades trying to prevent conflict, famine and terrorism in the country.

Speaking in London February 23 after a conference on Somalia hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron, Clinton said, “The opportunity is real.” The international community needs to work with Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) as it prepares to hand over power by August and help “build a durable peace for the Somalia people and to support a government that delivers services and offers democracy and prosperity, uniting Somalia after so many years of division and chaos.”

Clinton welcomed the February 22 decision by the United Nations Security Council that expanded AMISOM’s mission from 12,000 to 17,731 troops, allowing the force to work in south-central Somalia. The Security Council also prohibited charcoal exports from Somalia, which have been an important funding source for the terrorist group al-Shabaab and have caused the country environmental harm and threatened its food security.

Somalis “need to see concrete improvements in their lives,” especially in areas recently liberated from al-Shabaab, Clinton said. She announced that the United States is providing an additional $64 million in humanitarian assistance to Somalia and other Horn of Africa countries. The move brings U.S. emergency assistance since 2011 “up to more than $934 million, including more than $211 million for lifesaving programs in Somalia,” Clinton said.

In the fight against piracy, the United States is helping to strengthen the Somali judicial system to handle piracy cases and supports other measures such as the soon-to-be-launched Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecutions Intelligence Coordination Center in the Seychelles. The United States welcomes the United Kingdom’s initiative to create an international task force to discourage the payment of ransoms and help prevent the illicit flow of money in the region, the secretary said.

A senior State Department official who asked not to be identified told reporters traveling with Clinton on February 22 that the Obama administration is encouraging the TFG to adhere to a political road map developed in July and August 2011 that will establish more permanent governing institutions in Somalia by August 2012.

“The road map calls for the establishment of a constituent assembly, the drafting of a new constitution, and the indirect election of a new president, and a new parliament, and a new parliamentary speaker,” the official said. Anyone who undermines the process “should be held accountable for their actions.”

“In the last 18 months, we have seen all of Mogadishu liberated from the control of al-Shabaab. And we now need to see the political progress and the development progress match the security gains that we continue to see,” the official said.

The official said the expansion of AMISOM will include approximately 4,000 Kenyan troops who are being made members of the mission, as well as two new battalions of Ugandan troops, one new battalion of Burundian troops, and the expansion of the Djiboutian force from 100 troops to a full 600-person battalion.

The official said the United States has paid about one-third of the cost of AMISOM’s mission, or $385 million over the past three years.