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Issue 512/ 19th - 25th Nov 2011
U.S. Special Representative For Somalia's Speech In Columbus, OHIO
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’m pleased to have the opportunity to speak with you tonight in Columbus -- a city that is one of the most important centers of the Somali diaspora in the United States. Somalis in America are not only active contributors to their newly adopted communities, but also continue to follow, and more importantly, influence developments in Somalia. So it was a priority for me to engage in a dialogue and learn from the Somalia diaspora in the first few months of my new assignment as the U.S. Special Representative for Somalia.
The difficulties that beset many parts of Somalia today: chronic instability, weak governance, famine and terrorism, have led some commentators to say that America should scale back its engagement with Somalia. They see heart-breaking news coverage of malnourished Somali children, read about bright young college students murdered by suicide bombers, or hear reports of wide-scale corruption and say that Somalia cannot be helped. The problems Somalia faces today, the critics say, are the same problems it has faced for twenty years. They are intractable, they are expensive – their argument runs – so why bother?
U.S. Interests in Somalia
The answer is simple: America’s national interests require robust engagement with Somalia. As a compassionate society, the United States has an interest in addressing the acute humanitarian needs of our fellow human beings in Somalia. As part of our global commitment to advancing democratic values and improved governance, we have an interest in promoting political reforms that allow Somalis to be represented by leaders who will govern for the benefit of the people and the development of the country. The United States also has direct security interests in Somalia. The combination of instability and poor governance threatens not only the Somali people, but the security of our regional partners in the Horn of Africa and beyond. These factors have led to the most serious piracy problem in the world on key international trade routes. They have also created a dangerous terrorist organization – al Shabaab – that wantonly attacks innocent civilians and African peacekeepers, has conducted terrorist attacks against Somalia’s neighbors, and has actively recruited American citizens.
For all these reasons – humanitarian, democracy and governance, and cold-eyed security concerns – America is committed to helping Somalia regain stability and security. While Somalia faces enormous challenges, it also has, to quote President Obama, “… enormous support from the people of the United States.”
A Vision for Success in Somalia
We are committed to working with Somalis and the international community to help develop indigenous, long term solutions to the country’s ongoing problems. America, as President Obama also said, “…wants Somalia to succeed.”
Success means that Somalis facing drought and famine are helped to survive the current crisis and are given the long-term tools to better withstand future droughts. Success means that Somalia is free from totalitarian terrorist groups like al Shabaab, which is responsible for many lost and shattered lives – not only in Somalia, but in Kenya and Uganda, through its terror attacks and through its policy of banning humanitarian assistance. Success means that Somalis can turn to their government for the basic services that we take for granted in America. It means that humanitarian and development assistance goes where it is needed and not into the pockets of corrupt officials or the armories of warlords and terrorists. And success means that the Somali people get to decide what form of government and constitution they will have. Poll after poll shows that the Somali people want self-determination, even if they are unclear exactly how that democracy should look. Our role is to support the Somali people as they arrive at these decisions.
The Current Humanitarian Crisis
Let me turn first to the current humanitarian crisis, which has been so much in the headlines in recent months. The scale of the crisis is shocking. Nutritional data released by the Food and Agriculture Organization in early September spoke of 4 million people in need of assistance in Somalia alone, with more than three times that number at risk elsewhere in the region.
To address the immediate crisis, the United States has provided over $750 million to meet ongoing and urgent humanitarian needs in the region. Approximately $175 million of those funds are for humanitarian assistance within Somalia. Our dollars and diplomatic leverage are also being used to provide protection and assistance for Somali refugees in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.
While America is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa But, we are not alone. European partners, Turkey, Gulf Cooperation Council countries, China, Japan, and many others have all responded to Somalia’s urgent need. Together, we have met nearly 80 percent of the $1 billion UN Consolidated Appeal for Humanitarian Assistance for Somalia, the highest percentage reached of any appeal in the world today. In addition to aid from governments, there have been significant contributions from private citizens and NGOs from around the world. In many respects, our core humanitarian challenge is not only to continue to mobilize the necessary resources, but also to ensure that all donors and implementing agencies are coordinating their response for maximum efficiency and effect.
The areas worst affected by the famine are – not coincidentally – those where the extremist group al-Shabaab is most influential. Though assistance is beginning to reach these areas, coverage is uneven and continues to be impeded by al-Shabaab in many places. We call on al-Shabaab to remove urgently all remaining obstacles to aid delivery in areas where they are present. Although humanitarian access is far better in areas of Transitional Federal Government presence, we believe this could be further improved through efforts to establish more effective TFG aid-coordination systems and address the problem of small armed bands that control entry to some Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) sites. The TFG should make areas it controls a model of effective aid delivery.
There is also something that you can do. You may be surprised to know that more than 54% of Americans have no idea there is even a crisis in the Horn of Africa region. To highlight the devastating crisis, USAID, working with the Ad Council, launched the F.W.D. or “forward” campaign for the Horn of Africa. F.W.D. stands for Famine. War. Drought. - the three factors that make the crisis so severe. Today, November 9th, is FWD>Day – a national day of action for Americans. Today we are asking that 13.3 million people, the same number of people impacted by the crisis, take action to raise awareness for the Horn of Africa. We are asking people to take an action by (1) posting messages on Facebook and Twitter about the crisis, (2) making your own FWD video on YouTube, and (3) texting “Give” to 777444 to donate $10
U.S. “Dual Track” Policy after One Year
Beyond the immediate crisis, our primary vehicle for advancing broader U.S. interests in Somalia is the “Dual Track” policy announced on October 20, 2010 by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson. Under Dual Track, our diplomatic engagement and development assistance for Somalia is steadily increasing. This year alone the United States we will provide over $250,000,000 dollars for Somalia. These funds support a vast array of programs, across the entire country, that address security, peace and reconciliation, conflict mitigation, good governance, justice, democracy, education, economic growth, private sector competitiveness, health, water sanitation, food security, nutrition, and protection for vulnerable peoples.
Track one of the Dual Track policy reaffirms America’s continuing support for making the Transitional Federal Institutions more effective, more inclusive, and better able to provide services to the Somali people. Track One is consistent with our support for the Transitional Charter and Djibouti Peace Process. Track one also reaffirms our continued support for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers who defend those institutions.
The Second Track of Dual Track broadens our engagement with regional and local administrations, civil society groups, and communities across the country that share the same goal of defeating al-Shabaab and bringing peace and stability back to Somalia. In reality, the Second Track announced last year codified efforts that were already underway to expand outreach to communities and organizations that were creating pockets of stability and improved governance. Key administrations and organizations we engage under Dual Track include Somaliland, Puntland, Galmuduug, Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a, other local administrations, and civil society groups.
The past year has seen important progress on both tracks of Dual Track. On Track One, the Transitional Federal Government and AMISOM have succeeded in retaking ninety-eight percent of Mogadishu from al-Shabaab. This is a significant accomplishment in the security arena and one that has led to increased humanitarian access in newly liberated parts of the city. Mogadishu has been the scene of the fiercest battles in the country as al Shabaab struggled to keep its grip on the city that remains the economic heart of the country and has historically been its political epicenter as well. While al Shabaab has lost territory and support over the past year, it remains a very dangerous organization within Somalia and our support to the Somali forces and the Ugandan and Burundian troops deployed alongside them in Mogadishu will continue. The United States supports the Somali National forces with stipends, training, and equipment, and has also provided the lion's share of equipment and training for the AMISOM troop-contributing countries ever since their first deployment in 2007.
On the second track, we have increased outreach and support to key regional administrations and local governments across the country that are providing stability and services and countering al-Shabaab. Somaliland, for example, emerged from a successful presidential transition last year, a process the United States supported with over $700,000 in assistance. Having clearly progressed on democratization, the Somaliland administration has also successfully attracted new investment. That is why the United States more than doubled its assistance to Somaliland under Dual Track, going from about $8 million in 2009 to more than $20 million in 2010. This funds programs focused on local government administration and planning, education, community development initiatives, and economic growth.
We plan to extend the same type of Track Two community development assistance programs to Puntland, Galmuduug, and accessible areas of Gedo Region in the coming months. Even in Mogadishu, our quick impact community-focused projects are channeled through the Benadir Administration in order to reinforce local ownership and keep the projects close to the people.
We know Dual Track also has its critics. Some claim the policy has undercut the influence of the Transitional Federal Government, but this ignores our continued support to both the TFG and AMISOM. There are those who claim Dual Track further Balkanizes Somalia, pointing to opportunists who quickly self-declared “newly independent states” – “states’ that often represent little more than a hastily-posted website in a foreign capital.
The Second Track is in no way an open-ended commitment to assist any regional entity. We are focused on looking for opportunities to help political structures that enjoy real legitimacy with their constituents and have a record of building pockets of stability within Somalia and responding to the people. We want to help Somalis living in such communities, even while Somalis as a whole decide what sort of relationship they want between their central and regional governments. When it comes to recognizing new African states, America follows the African Union lead -- and the African Union supports a single Somali state.
On both tracks, we will continue to provide training to local authorities and targeted Transitional Federal Institutions to promote credibility and confidence in the peace process. This includes funding activities to support constitutional and democratization processes across the country. It also includes training, often with the expertise of Somali diaspora like yourselves, to promote government transparency and responsiveness. A great recent example includes a member of the diaspora who returned to work with the TFG. He identified $1 million dollars in lost assets, funds which belonged to the defunct Somali national airlines that were sitting unused in banks, and restored these assets the national budget.
Let me turn now to the national political process. Ultimately the ability of Somalia to address future humanitarian challenges; improve security for its people; and pursue a strategy for development of the country will require resolution of political conflicts and establishment of functional governing institutions. If Somali political leaders want to garner credibility with the Somali, they must capitalize on the improving security environment to make significant progress in both the political and governance realm.
Many Somalis still express a deep skepticism about the Transitional Federal Institutions’ ability – or willingness – to govern in a representative, responsive and accountable manner. Much of their frustration comes from the perception that the Transition Federal process begun in 2004, which was supposed to provide the constitutional, electoral and parliamentary foundation for a new Somalia, has become hopelessly stalled. In the eyes of many of their constituents, the political leadership in Mogadishu has become complacent with the status quo, and the benefits it affords those in power, rather than committed to progress that will help the average Somali.
On September 6, however, these Somali leaders created a unique opportunity to change that perception. On that day, Somali leaders from the Transitional Federal Government, the regional administrations of Puntland and Galmuduug, and the Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a movement signed the Roadmap for Ending the Transition in Somalia. It is a hopeful indication that previously competing administrations see the benefit of coming together to end the static transition period that increasingly serves the interests of the few at the expense of the many.
Although the Roadmap includes a complex list of tasks and deadlines to be met that may be overly ambitious, its broad thrust of (1) improving security, (2) extending political outreach to all regions, (3) completing the constitution, and (4) ensuring representative institutions and good governance is right on target.
The Roadmap has given new impetus to the completion of key transition tasks such as the drafting of a constitution, and electoral and parliamentary reform.
But some Roadmap deadlines have already slipped and it is urgent that senior Somali political leaders from the signatory parties together actively provide political direction to spur the process forward. The terrible suffering of the Somali people, particularly during the current famine, underscores that the signatories must make rapid progress toward representative and effective governance that can meet the basic needs of all Somalis. We are closely monitoring progress on the Roadmap. We will continue to support the efforts of those who strive to achieve its goals and bring stability back to Somalia. Equally, we will work with our regional and international partners to hold accountable those Somali officials who obstruct progress.
For all the challenges Somalia continues to face, we have seen positive – though still fragile – results from the efforts that we and our Somali, African, and international partners have expended. This year’s humanitarian response has been massive, and now needs follow-through and improved coordination to ensure the necessary effect. In the security arena, momentum has shifted from al-Shabaab to the TFG and AMISOM -- although al-Shabaab still remains dangerously capable of asymmetric attacks. Politically, the Roadmap offers a positive vision for the end of the transition and also the prospect of convergence between the national government and regional entities, but it needs strong direction by Somali political leaders and active regional and international engagement to keep it on track. There is of course still much work to be done to address all of these challenges. It is time for all of us -- especially those in the diaspora -- to add our voices to those of the millions of Somalis calling for end the transition period and a new era of security, inclusiveness, and development in which Somalia can rebuild.
Ambassador James Swan, the U.S. Special Representative for Somalia, spoke at the Ohio State University on Wednesday