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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of African Affairs > Releases > Remarks > 2006: African Affairs Remarks

Challenges in Somalia

Jendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Remarks to International Somalia Contact Group
Brussels, Belgium
July 17, 2006

Mr. Commissioner and distinguished colleagues, as we all know, the situation in Somalia continues to present us with sizable, and even daunting challenges. The issues at hand are too large for any one member of the international community to take on and successfully resolve.

I see it as a decisively positive step that all of us have gathered here today, ready to roll up our sleeves and talk about concrete measures we can take to increase security and alleviate the humanitarian crisis that has been brewing within Somalia's borders. Together, we must consider the best way to reestablish effective governance, eliminate a safe haven for terrorists, and address the needs of the civilian population.

As many of you may already know, I traveled to East Africa in late June to seek the counsel of neighboring nations about how the United States might best address the changing dynamics in Somalia and the region more generally, in the weeks and months ahead. Over the course of several days, I visited with leaders from Uganda , Kenya , Ethiopia , and Djibouti , as well as representatives from IGAD and the African Union (AU), and the Arab League. I also had the opportunity to meet with the leadership of the Transitional Federal Institutions, including Parliament Speaker Shariff Hassan Sheikh Adan, President Abdullahi Yusuf, and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi.

At the same time, members of the Transitional Federal Institutions were preparing to meet with representatives from the Islamic courts in Khartoum . The U.S. was encouraged by the outcomes of the first meeting in Khartoum between the TFI leaders and the Islamic Courts. There must be follow-on actions that demonstrate both sides' commitment to working together, within the framework of the Transitional Federal Charter, to support the return of effective governance in Somalia .

In this regard, it is disappointing that the follow-on meeting between the TFIs and Islamic Courts did not take place on July 15 th as scheduled. I am pleased to hear from my colleague from the Arab League that talks are rescheduled. The Transitional Federal Government should prepare for these talks as a matter of urgency.

Speaking on behalf of the United States government, we believe that the best way to approach this challenge is a coordinated and comprehensive strategy that builds upon the prior successes and strengths of the AU, IGAD, the Arab League and the donor community. The prospects for success are greatest if we can compose a transparent list of objectives and work collaboratively. It is important to focus on constructive action and deterrence of any destructive actors. Following is the list the USG proposes:

First, there is an urgent need for the international community, and the members of this Contact Group in particular, to seize the present moment and foster an inclusive dialogue between the various Somali parties and incorporate these key stakeholders into the Transitional Federal Institutions. The dialogue between the TFIs and Islamic Courts is particularly important.

Second, we must also seek to broaden this dialogue as soon as possible. We must bring in Somalia 's other key stakeholders: regional authorities, religious leaders, civil society, women's groups and the business community.

 

As the members of this group have already agreed, the Transitional Federal Charter and Transitional Federal Institutions offer Somalia a productive way forward, via a transitional political process and leading to an elected, representative government by the end of 2009. So, in the immediate future, we must engage wide participation in the Transitional Federal Institutions from key stakeholders, including: marginalized sub-clans, the business community, moderate elements of the Islamic courts, civil society, and others.

Third, given the current lack of administrative and institutional capacity, the international community also has practical considerations to address. There is a need for building mid-level capacity and technical assistance. In coordination with donor partners, who are not represented in this Contact Group, we must develop concrete ways to urge greater participation in the political process and in support for the Transitional Federal Institutions, by recruiting individuals for a Somali civil service, through the Civil Service Commission.

Fourth, the Transitional Federal Government must also make discernible progress, in establishing regional administrations, in accordance with the Charter. This, of course, requires defining the form of “federalism” to be used in Somalia . Many regional and administrations already exist and will need to be brought into the Transitional Federal Institutions. The international community should help facilitate linkages between these administrations and the Transitional Federal Institutions.

Fifth, we must develop concrete mechanisms for effective security sector reform in Somalia . This includes the formation of legitimate national security forces and training for both police and military. The countries of the region will have an important role to play in training and building the capacity of an effective national security force in Somalia , and the international community should seek to support these regional efforts.

We must also use the opportunity to reform the security sector and form a legitimate national security force that can work with all parties: the Transitional Federal Institutions and the Islamic courts, business community, and other key groups with a role to play in this process.

Training and capacity building for the security sector will require a partial waiver of the United Nations arms embargo. That said, we should also develop mechanisms for shoring up the arms embargo against spoilers and violent extremists.

Sixth, the United States remains cognizant of the challenges we face in Somalia . Foreign terrorists can currently exploit the absence of governance, finding a safe haven in Somalia , while arms and criminals continue to flow in and out of the country, threatening the security of the entire Horn. Somalia cannot continue to serve as a safe haven for terrorists. We have called upon the leaders within the Islamic courts to render foreign terrorist operatives currently in Somalia to justice. Such affirmative steps would demonstrate the intentions of the Islamic courts and indicate a show of good faith to the international community.

In conclusion, we recognize that there are no easy answers to the challenges we face. However, as the international community, we must adapt our engagement to the ever-changing dynamics in Somalia . By coordinating common policy objectives and sharing information about political developments in Somalia , we can pursue further progress and successfully seize the current, rare opportunity to effect positive change in Somalia .



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