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Somalia's US Embassy Reopens After 24 Years


FILE - Foreign Minister Abdisalam Omer of Somalia addresses a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, Sept. 26, 2015.

FILE - Foreign Minister Abdisalam Omer of Somalia addresses a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, Sept. 26, 2015.

For the first time in almost a quarter-century, Somalia has an embassy in the United States.

The Somali government reopened its embassy in Washington at a ceremony Wednesday attended by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Somalia’s Foreign Minister Abdisalam Omer.

Omer told VOA that reopening the embassy is a signal to the world that his country has emerged from years of isolation.

“This is very important, this is the most important day in the recent history of Somalia, which tells us we are out of the dark, we are part of the world, we are in Washington D.C., where important decisions are made and issues are resolved and we are among friends," said Fessahaye. "Here with us is Congressman Keith Ellison, [the] assistant secretary of state for African affairs, so we are with our colleagues, brothers and friends and our allies in United States. And Somalia will never die."

Thomas-Greenfield affirmed the U.S. will continue to work with the government in Mogadishu to improve living conditions in Somalia after more than two decades of conflict.

“We are going to work in every field. We are working in the security sector, we are also working in development," she said. "We are working in governance and helping the country move forward for the election. All of those are priorities."

FILE - U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, right, accompanied by USAID Assistant Administrator for Bureau for Democracy Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg, testifies on Capitol Hill, Jan. 9, 2014.

FILE - U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, right, accompanied by USAID Assistant Administrator for Bureau for Democracy Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg, testifies on Capitol Hill, Jan. 9, 2014.

Thomas-Greenfield added she is optimistic about the future of Somalia.

“We look forward to working with the government of Somalia, as Somalia continues to build and rebuild for its people," she said. "I am optimistic. I am very, very optimistic about Somalia’s future. I think we have achieved a lot together over the past few years. We have a lot more work to be done but I think we are going to get there.”

The former Somali embassy in Washington closed 24 years ago as the East African country descended into civil war and chaos.

The U.S. has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Somalia over the years as it dealt with drought, rampant piracy and the ongoing al-Shabab insurgency.

The country's fortunes have gradually improved during the past four years, as government and African Union troops pushed Shabab forces out of Somalia's major cities.

The U.S. formally recognized the current Somali government in 2013. In September, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud appointed a new ambassador to the U.S., Ahmed Awad.

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