Ministers meet in London for Somalia summit

A helicopter flies over Mogadishu, Somalia
A helicopter flies over Mogadishu, Somalia

By Oliver Hotham

Foreign ministers are descending on London today for an international conference on Somalia.

The east African state remains mired in civil unrest, but African Union (AU) peacekeepers have succeeded in driving the Islamist extremist group Al-Shabaab from Mogadishu - creating an opportunity for a political solution to the ongoing crisis.

In its statement on the conference, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) admitted previous measures had not been successful.

"After 20 years of sliding backwards, Somalia needs a step-change in effort – both from the international community, but also Somalia’s political leaders.

"These are complex issues that will not be solved overnight.

"We will need to build on and support the work of the UN, AU, NGOs and the vital role of civil society in Somali and we will require sustained political commitment and concrete action, including from Somalia’s political leaders."

Among the international visitors are the leaders of the Somalian government, as well as representatives from the EU, United Nations and the AU.

William Hague, who visited the country this month, described it as the "world's worst failed state", and emphasised it was Britain's responsibility to help the people of Somalia achieve stable government.

The foreign secretary said fixing Somalia was in Britain's direct security interests.

Somalia's central government collapsed in 1991 amid the civil war, and has existed as one of the world's most dangerous and unstable nations since then, despite international attempts to restore order.

Fears are growing that Somalia will become a new Afghanistan and a hub for Islamic terrorism.

The prime minister opened the conference expressing his optimism and laying out why it is important that a new solution be found.

"Engagement has been sporadic and half-hearted and that fatalism has failed Somalia. And it has failed the international community too. Today we have an unprecedented opportunity to change that," David Cameron told the meeting.

"Despite the huge challenges still ahead, when the British foreign secretary visited Mogadishu he saw a growing confidence returning to the streets. Shops re-opening, homes being rebuilt, a city beginning to get back on its feet again.

"So we are not here to impose solutions on a country from afar.Nor are we here to tell you, the Somali people, what to do. But rather, we’re here to get behind your efforts and help you to turn things around."

He announced agreements to deal with the problem of piracy, an increase in British aid to Somalia and its neighbours, and the creation of a joint financial management board to ensure international aid is put to good use.


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