Yesterday, the British government hosted the “London Conference on Somalia.” You can read a statement of the conference’s aims here, and view a list of attendees here.
Below I have rounded up statements made at the conference and reactions to it from governments, organizations, and individuals.
British Prime Minister David Cameron (full text of his speech here):
The world had ignored Somalia for too long, said British Prime Minister David Cameron in his opening statement, because the problems were seen as too difficult and too remote.
“That fatalism has failed Somalia and it has failed the international community, too. So today we have an unprecedented opportunity to change that and I believe there is real momentum right now,” said Cameron. “International aid has pulled Somalia back from the brink of humanitarian crisis. Thanks to the extraordinary bravery of African and Somali troops, the city of Mogadishu, once beautiful, now a bullet-hole-ridden city has been recovered from al-Shabab. Crucially, across the country al-Shabab are losing the support of ordinary Somalis.”
Video of Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad’s speech here.
Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali:
Ali said that he supported international airstrikes against al-Qaida militants in his country because they were “a global problem” that “needs to be addressed globally.”
He emphasized Thursday that he wanted the airstrikes to be properly targeted.
“That’s what we support,” Ali said. “Not necessarily killing innocent lives.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
The people of Somalia have waited many years. They have heard many promises, they have seen many deadlines come and go, and it is time – past time – to buckle down and do the work that will bring stability to Somalia for the first time in many people’s lives. The position of the United States is straightforward: Attempts to obstruct progress and maintain the broken status quo will not be tolerated. We will encourage the international community to impose further sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes on people inside and outside the TFG who seek to undermine Somalia’s peace and security or to delay or even prevent the political transition.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon:
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said more money is needed to spread security beyond the capital.
“We need the surge in Mogadishu to show what is possible in southern and central Somalia. We need to reconsolidate military gains, provide the basic social services and contribute to reconstruction,” said Ban. “Sixteen United Nations agencies and our partners are working hard to make progress. But they are underfunded… this is a bold agenda, we have no more time to wait and see. To any donors still wavering, I say get off the fence, help prevent another famine and offer new hope to Somalia.”
Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula:
Moses Wetangula, foreign minister of neighbouring Kenya, told Reuters he wanted to see “a renewed and reinvigorated international commitment to Somalia”.
“We hope it’s not going to be the usual talking shop where we make flowery speeches and get clapped and go away without caring whether it will be followed up or not. I hope we will have a commitment to assist the warring factions in Somalia to instil a sense of peace and working together.”
While we recognise the huge efforts of the UK Government to make the conference a success, what we had hoped for was a recognition that 20 years of internationally imposed solutions have failed. However, what we’ve seen once again are externally driven solutions that haven’t worked, aren’t working and will not work.
Amnesty International: “London Conference on Somalia hasn’t adequately tackled the dire human rights situation in the country.”
The BBC’s Mary Harper:
There seems to be a bit of a contradiction in the final communique. On the one hand, it states in bold type that decisions on Somalia’s future “rest with the Somali people”. On the other it talks about outsiders taking some control of the government’s budget, with the establishment of a Joint Financial Management Board.
It is also outsiders who have decided that the time for political transition is over; they even say they will “incentivise progress” towards representative government.
Al-Shabab said the London conference was another attempt to colonise Somalia.
“They want us under trusteeship and we will not allow that. God willing we will face the outcome with full force and stop it,” said al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage.
Some other Somali criticisms of the conference can be found here.
I unfortunately could not find a statement by Turkey, which is an increasingly important actor in Somalia (see a recent piece on their aid efforts here, and a piece on the praise Turkey won from a Somali businessman here). Turkey will host another international conference on Somalia this June. I also could not find a reaction from Russia, which sent a delegation to the conference.
Please use the comments to post additional reactions and to share your own. Do you think the conference will make a difference in/for Somalia?
Hi – great round-up. Radical Middle Way launched a campaign to get young Somalis heard in this debate too – read their reaction and see their video stories here: http://youngvoices.radicalmiddleway.co.uk/
Here is my take in nutshell;
1. High profile conference with extensive international media coverage. Excellent marketing for Somalia
2. TFG must go in August 2012. Time enough for President, Prime Minister, Speaker and bloated devilish MPs to collect some cash
3. Somalis must sit together (all of them!) and sort out their mess under the acacia three. Nobody else will do it for them
4. Somalia stays ONE country. Depressing outcome for Silanyo and Somaliland secessionists
5. 8,000 more AMISOM. Bit of bad news for Al Shabaab and very good news for the wage earners from East Africa
6. Nothing much for the struggling Somali army and security forces. Missed opportunity!
7. Little bit of money pledged, so far around 300 million dollars for so called Stability Fund. Not the billions expected ..!!
8.Puntland’s Farole scored few shots as Garowe accord was mentioned number of times in the meeting and documents
9. Galmudug and Sunna wa Jamaaca team go back with few good photos from London
10. No more free riding for Somali criminals who prey on civilian blood and obstruct peace and progress. hope they open a Somalia desk in the Hague!
10. Rest of usual rhetoric on piracy, fighting terrorism, humanitarian assistance, engaging Somalis… blaa blaa blaa…..
Probably not, unless they’ve found some magical way to force the various Somali leaders, masses and elites to be united under a common belief. Even if the TFG does crush Al-Shabaab there is little to guarantee that the fighting won’t start again between different groups who want more of post-Al-Shabaab Somalia.
Unfortunately Al-Shabaab holds the better domestic political cards, or at least it did. It’s hard for the TFG to have nationalist credentials when it’s relying on neighboring countries, the U.S and the U.N to protect it. Communism isn’t worth considering after 1991. Extremely conservative Islam is the very reason why the outside world is so worried about Al-Shabaab, so even though there are more than a few very conservative people in the TFG they can’t use that either. What political ideology is left? Al-Shabaab has done itself some damage because of the hardline opposition to aid groups and banning such things as movies* but I don’t think the TFG can take advantage of that.
*Reminding me of the post-civil war English leadership actually. I suppose revolutionaries just have to ban entertainment.
There is nothing the West has that can compete against conservative Islam. But Turkey has more “street cred” in that part of the World. So hopefully the Turkish conference will be more productive.
It’s a matter of what’s revolutionary and promises to fix social ills at the moment. Sixty years ago they could have been Communists. Heck, what’s revolutionary depends on what nation you’re in. No matter what they like to pretend, the Iranian government isn’t revolutionary and hasn’t been for a while. It’s a reactionary government now.
As for Somalia, if the TFG actually could provide good governance, policing, infrastructure, reasonable taxes and jobs it wouldn’t have much trouble annihilating Al-Shabaab even if they didn’t have a revolutionary ideology. The problem, obviously, is that the TFG can’t for many reasons (some self-inflicted) and also lacks the revolutionary appeal. That isn’t a pleasant combination.
Personally I expect that groups like Al-Shabaab will eventually go the way of the Shining Path, I just wish that they would hurry up and do so.
The upcoming Istanbul conference in June should be more productive, I expect more talk on the humanitarian situation there. What I found strange was Clinton saying that air strikes wouldn’t be very productive whilst PM Abdi Weli was calling for them in Somalia, usually the other way around.
Any comment about Eritrea, Eritrea’s role or reason for not being allowed to participate?
“The Transition must end in August 2012, Great! but the question is that why the actors of the TFG are still playing a big role in the process and the upcoming election when their mandate expires in August in 2012? That is really UNFAIR Process. Seems to me that the international community is still and fully engaged on a sided political agenda and Somali’s roadmap for stability that has massive internal political hurdles. I am sure this could lead to potentially disaster impacts involving serious tensions between the regions, which could at anytime spark into open conflict. Besides Somalis and the world have already seen enough the repeat fake peace and reconciliation processes in the past and now all need fair representation for their future in order to help bring peace and security to Somalia and the region, but not the way the current reconcialiation process in Garowe….
I believe that all these actors (the two Sharif,the Prime Minister Abdiwali Gas and Abdirahman Farole) at bargaining table for Somalia manipulate in the hope of increasing their own wealth and empowering their clan loyalties only. The world must aware of that.
So I call on international community to support common Somali agenda in reaching a final and lasting peace agreement, brought about with the help of even-handed, and robust, mediation.
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