London conference focuses world’s attention on Somalia
World leaders, gathered in London for a Conference on Somalia, have urged this Horn of Africa nation to seize the opportunity to rebuild on its war-torn nation’s future.
Ending threats of terrorism and piracy were in everyone’s interests and the world would pay a high price if it ignored the plight of Somalia, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said.
“Young minds are being poisoned by radicalism, breeding terrorism that is threatening not just Somalia but the whole world. If the rest of us just sit back and look on, we will pay a price for doing so.”
US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton told world leaders which included Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi and UN chief Ban Ki-moon that plans to elect leaders and adopt a constitution before August were “ambitious”.
News reports said representatives from Somali factions were present at the London conference, but the al-Shabab Islamist group that controls much of the south of the country was not invited. Al-Shabab, was quoted as saying the London conference was another attempt to colonize Somalia.
Speaking to conference delegates UN Chief Mr. Ban said that an opportunity had presented itself that “we cannot afford to miss” to help the people of the Horn of Africa nation end threats and instability and to realize the vision of a productive and peaceful Somalia.
“This is a bold agenda. We have no more time to ‘wait and see’,” he told world leaders at the meeting. “To any donors still wavering, I say: get off the fence. Help prevent another famine and offer new hope to Somalia.
“Somalis have shown astounding resilience in the face of extreme hardship. They are ready to show the world they can rebuild their lives and their country with our support. We can do no less than answer their cries for peace.”
Mr. Ban called for steps to improve security, advance the political process and step up assistance for recovery, reconstruction and development.
Late February, the Security Council extended the mandate of the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia (AMISOM) to 31 October and called for an almost 50 per cent increase in the 12,000-strong force to deal with continued insecurity in the impoverished country.
“Ultimately, our goal is to transfer security responsibilities to the Somalis and establish sustainable, credible and indigenous security institutions in the country,” said Mr. Ban, who called on governments to provide the necessary support to both AMISOM and to the Somali forces operating alongside it.
Somalia has not had a functioning central government for the past 20 years, during which it has been torn apart by factional fighting and has faced a series of humanitarian crises, the latest being a food crisis that has left more than two million Somalis in need of aid.
Somalia’s Transitional Federal Institutions are in the process of implementing a roadmap devised in September 2011 that spells out priority measures to be carried out by 20 August. Before then, Mr. Ban noted, the country needs a new constitution, a more representative Parliament and elections for the positions of President, Speaker and Deputies.