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Senior US Diplomat Sees Hope in Somalia

  • Gabe Joselow

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy R. Sherman prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 1, 2011.

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy R. Sherman prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 1, 2011.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman has praised as “extraordinary” the work Somalia’s new parliament is doing to rebuild the country under difficult circumstances. She commented following a visit to Mogadishu that coincided with the appointment of Somalia’s first female foreign minister.

Ambassador Sherman, the third-highest ranking official in the State Department, met with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and other top members of the Somali government Sunday during her visit to the capital.

She is the most senior American official to travel to Somalia in more than 20 years.

Speaking Monday to students and reporters at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Sherman praised the work being done by the new Somali government, saying the country is now seen as a place of hope and not despair.

“To create a democracy out of virtually nothing - the parliament is meeting in a parking lot - is truly extraordinary, truly extraordinary,” said Sherman.

Somalia’s parliament building was destroyed during years of civil war that followed the ousting of former president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and is currently being repaired.

The new parliament was formed in August following a years-long political transition.

Sherman noted that security remains a pressing concern for the new government, which is working with African Union forces to oust the al-Qaida linked militant group al-Shabab from its last remaining strongholds.

"And the president and the speaker of the parliament with whom I also met and civil society and entrepreneurs are working exceedingly hard to do a very difficult, hopefully not impossible job, in trying to get security, stability, jobs, services, a financial system together fast enough before the darkness - better known as al-Shabab or others - could reemerge,” she stated.

In a statement, Sherman also welcomed the prime minister's appointment of Somalia's new Cabinet, which includes the country's first female foreign minister.

Fawzia Yusuf Haji Adam, who comes from Puntland and once tried unsuccessfully to run for president of the autonomous region, told VOA's Somali service she is very “proud and grateful” to be part of a new era for Somali women.

She said her role will be to “do something about the image of Somalia,” which she says has been damaged by civil war and mayhem.

The 10-member Cabinet includes another female politician, Maryan Qasim Ahmed, selected as the minister for development and social affairs.
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