After 20 years of lawlessness, violence and chaos in Somalia, representatives from 40 countries are meeting in London on Thursday to help the Horn of Africa country to return to rule of law.
Top on the agenda will be the threat posed by increasing terrorism and piracy.
“This is about trying to put in place the building blocks among the international community but, above all, among the Somalis themselves for a stronger and safer Somalia,” UK Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament on Wednesday.
There is also a proposal for money for schools, hospitals and the police in war torn Somalia. Somali leaders admit the country’s challenges cannot be solved by military means alone and a parallel focus is needed to boost humanitarian aid, education and law as well as order.
“That means taking action on piracy, on hostages, to support the African Union’s mission in the country, it means working with all parts of Somalia to try and give that country a second chance,” Cameron added.
The London conference on Somalia follows comments by the Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, that the country, which “is at a very critical juncture in its history”, needs more international help. “Twenty years of lawlessness, violence and chaos is enough,” Ali said.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, and Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi are among the leaders due to join the discussions.
Al-Shabab in disarray
Twenty years of lawlessness, violence and chaos is enough
Efforts to stabilize Somalia have been intensified. Kenya sent troops to tackle the militant group al-Shabab, which controls parts of the country and recently merged with al-Qaeda. The East African economic powerhouse and Somalia’s neighbour blamed the terror group for a number of kidnappings on its territory before deploying troops last year.
Soldiers from several countries including Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia’s transitional government as well as an African Union force, AMIOSM, are carrying out an offensive against Al-Shabaab in various parts of the country.
Getachew Reda, a public diplomacy and communications director general at the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Wednesday said the coordinated military operations, to wipe out Al-Shabaab in Somalia, had left fighters of the al-Qaeda linked extremist group in “disarray”.
The meeting comes after Ethiopian and Somali forces captured Baidoa, the militant group’s second most strategic stronghold in the south-west of the country – after the port of Kismayo in the south.
Naval ships from the UK and other countries around the world have been sent to patrol the Indian Ocean off the Somali coast to deter pirate attacks. And a number of kidnapping attempts in recent months have been thwarted, but attacks continue – and have been staged further from the shore.
But an al-Shabab commander, Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim, has been quoted by AFP as saying that the takeover of Baidoa “does not mean that the enemy will enjoy the city”. The group has threatened a guerrilla war.
The UN Security Council, on Wednesday, approved a resolution increasing the number of African Union (AU) troops in Somalia by 5,000 to more than 17,000.
Council members also agreed to extra funding for the mission and to extend its mandate.
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