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U.S. Ambassador Sees Real Hope For Somalia’s Future
Envoy urges support for national reconciliation, political inclusiveness
By David Anthony Denny
U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger.
Washington, May 25, 2007 - Somalis are “truly tired of the many years of chaos and conflict” and there is more reason to be hopeful about Somalia than ever before, says Michael Ranneberger, the U.S. ambassador to Kenya.
Ranneberger answered questions from an international audience about U.S. policy toward Somalia in a USINFO Webchat May 23. During the chat, he said that the Somali people, because of their years of suffering and privation, now are willing to work together. Because cooperation will be a new experience for them, it will not be an easy process, he said.
Late in 2006, Ethiopian armed forces went into Somalia to quell what they viewed as a threat from the Somali Islamic Courts, which had set themselves up as alternative authorities to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia. Ranneberger said that Ethiopia did this because it was in its own interest.
“I recognize that the Islamic Courts did manage to establish a degree of order in Mogadishu,” said Ranneberger. “However, the Islamic Courts never had broad support among the Somali people and, importantly, the Islamic Courts were moving in a very radical direction, which would not have been to the benefit of the Somali people.”
The aim of U.S. policy, said Ranneberger, is to promote security and stability in Somalia. To do that, the United States supports efforts toward “inclusive national reconciliation,” as well as sending in African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops as peacekeepers and providing humanitarian aid and development assistance.
The United States supported the deployment of Ugandan military forces to Somalia and has pledged additional support for other AMISOM forces, he said. In addition, the United States very soon will provide Somalia with about $10 million in development assistance, mainly for social services. There is also a plan to help security forces become more professional, he said.
Ranneberger said the United States is urging Arab, Asian and European Union governments to provide assistance for the TFG, for AMISOM and for development.
“The amount of assistance being provided is not yet sufficient, but we are continuing to press others to do more,” he said, adding that the United States is a leading donor government and for many years has been the nation contributing the most humanitarian aid to Somalia. President Bush has requested from Congress an additional $60 million in assistance for Somalia, he said.
Ranneberger emphasized the U.S. commitment to a political process that can bring together those Somalis who reject violence and extremism. He said Somalis are tired of chaos and conflict and want to participate in an inclusive procedure.
“This is the only way forward for Somalis to achieve lasting stability and security,” he said.
The Transitional Federal Institutions were developed as the legitimate representatives of the Somali people, Ranneberger said. With the ousting of the Courts, he said, the TFG now has an opportunity to establish its credibility and become an effective, inclusive government.
“Our objective is to support this process,” the ambassador said.
In addition to supporting the TFG’s effort to establish its credibility, the United States supports inclusive dialogue. It supports the National Reconciliation Congress, which the U.N. Security Council on April 30 called to be convened as soon as possible, and sees the need for all Somali parties and international partners to ensure that the Congress is truly representative of all parts of society, Ranneberger said. He said the United States believes that the Congress’ agenda should be greater power-sharing and the development of a road map for the transition to a democratically elected government in 2009.
“ Somalia faces huge challenges, but I am optimistic that the situation is moving in the right direction,” said Ranneberger.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)