By Phillip Kurata
IIP Staff Writer
May 7, 2013
Since 2009, the United States has provided more than $1.5 billion in assistance to Somalia, according to a State Department fact sheet.
“The initial transition has come to an end, a newly elected government is firmly in place, and dialogue about the future of Somalia is underway,” Burns said an international conference on Somalia in London May 7.
In January, the United States restored diplomatic recognition of Somalia after a rupture of more than 20 years. In February, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Rajiv Shah, visited Somalia for consultations on ramping up U.S. assistance to the new Somali government under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
In London, Burns warned that al-Shabaab militants remain a threat, despite Somalia’s progress. He said al-Shabaab blocked relief workers and food assistance from reaching famine-stricken Somalis in 2011, leading to the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of people. He recalled that al-Shabaab suicide bombers blew up a Somali judicial center in Mogadishu in April, killing 29.
“Overcoming grievances hardened over decades of conflict will take time. So to allow political reconciliation to stay on track in the midst of active efforts by spoilers to derail it, the international community must increase its support to Somalia’s security sector,” Burns said.
U.S. security assistance is focused on two areas: support for peacekeeping operations, specifically the training, equipping and transportation of troops participating in the African Union Mission in Somalia, and support for Somali security-sector reform activities, such as mentoring, training, and equipment and logistical support for Somalia’s national security forces, the fact sheet said.
Burns noted that security reform must include the development of an independent, credible and transparent justice system, a need that the new Somali government recognizes.
The deputy secretary said the United States backs the Somali government’s efforts to demobilize, disarm and reintegrate former militants who reject al-Shabaab. “We look forward to joining the United Nations and the government of Japan in supporting the Disengaged Fighter Program, and we urge other partners to do the same,” he said.
Parallel to security reform, the United States continues working to protect vulnerable populations, strengthen accountability and civilian control, and build respect for human rights and humanitarian law, Burns said.
He said Somalia is a fragile state, but the courage of its people and leaders is strong. “So long as Somalia’s friends and partners maintain their focus and support, we can be confident about Somalia’s future,” he said.