The United States has officially recognized the government of Somalia for the first time in decades after years of instability and civil war left the country without stable institutions.
One of the reasons the U.S. State Department made the announcement recognizing Somalia’s government was the historic elections held last year, allowing President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to take office.
“Today, for the first time in two decades, this country has a representative government with a new president, a new parliament, a new prime minister, and a new constitution. Somalia’s leaders are well aware of the work that lies ahead of them, and that it will be hard work,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday, according to a transcript.
The United States had not recognized a Somali government since warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Since then, warlords have vied to control the country, resulting in decades of civil war and anarchy.
Before Mohamud took over, there was about a decade of transitional government-led rule, but it was marred by corruption.
Clinton cited major security improvements in Somalia as one of the reasons for recognizing the current government based in Mogadishu, the capital. The Islamist hard-line group al-Shabab formerly had a strong presence in Mogadishu and other major cities in the country, but with joint efforts from African forces, the militant group has mostly retreated from the capital.
Al-Shabab, which is aligned with al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups, continues to control much of southern and central Somalia.
In 2009, al-Shabab “looked at the time like it would even gain more territory,” Clinton added. “The people of Somalia had already endured many years of violence and isolation, and we wanted to change that. We wanted to work together, not only with the people of Somalia but with governments across the region.”
The United States provided $780 million to the African Union and Somalia to push back al-Shabab, while providing around $360 million in humanitarian aid, Clinton said.
Speaking with Clinton in Washington, D.C., Mohamud said that Somalians are grateful for the assistance Americans provided.
“Somalia is emerging from a very long, difficult period,” he said, “and we are now moving away from the chaos, instability, extremism, piracy, an era, to an era of peaceful and development. We are aiming to make a valuable contribution to the region and the world at large.”
He noted that the United States “has always been the country that never left Somalia and have been engaging Somalia with difficult times at different levels.”
During the early 1990s, the United States intervention saved the lives of more than 300,000 Somalis, Mohamud said.
“Had that intervention not been there, it would have been difficult and different today—the situation in Somalia,” he continued.
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