News / Africa

US Envoy Sees Progress in Somalia; Challenges Remain

A Ugandan soldier serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) stands at the back of an armored fighting vehicle near the front line in the Yaaqshiid District of northern Mogadishu, Somalia. (file photo)
A Ugandan soldier serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) stands at the back of an armored fighting vehicle near the front line in the Yaaqshiid District of northern Mogadishu, Somalia. (file photo)

The U.S. special envoy for Somalia says the United States is pleased with recent progress in the country, citing security gains against al-Shabab and movement on a 'roadmap' to phase out the country's transitional government.  

In a conversation with VOA, U.S. Ambassador James Swan said there has been “very significant” progress in Somalia over the past year.

He noted the recent successes the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and African Union forces (AMISOM) have had against the al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab.

“I think we've really seen a change in the narrative with al-Shabab increasingly on the defensive, TFG and AMISOM increasingly taking the initiative and moving forward,” said Swan.

Kenyan soldiers talk as they prepare to advance near Liboi in Somalia (File)
Kenyan soldiers talk as they prepare to advance near Liboi in Somalia (File)

A military operation initiated by Kenya in Somalia's south-central region has added to pressure on the militant group.

While the United States is not directly involved in the military operations, Ambassador Swan noted the U.S. does provide support to the AU and TFG forces through a security assistance program.

Meantime, Somalia is trying to implement a political roadmap, agreed to in August, for ending the transitional federal government and drafting a new constitution.

Somali leaders recently agreed to some principles of the transition at a conference in Garowe in the autonomous Puntland region.  However, enormous challenges remain.

Ambassador Swan expressed concern about an ongoing dispute among Somali lawmakers over a motion to oust the parliamentary speaker.  

“The dispute in parliament risks becoming at best a distraction and at worst a setback for roadmap implementation, so we are very eager to see this rapidly overcome so that all of the Somali institutions can keep their focus on implementing the roadmap and bringing the transition to an end in August of this year,” Swan added.

Somali members of parliament have brawled on at least four separate occasions following a move to oust speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan. Several MP's were hospitalized after the most recent fistfight.

Among their grievances, his opponents complain that Adan has refused to hold debates on the roadmap.

Another issue complicating Somalia's future is the role of regional authorities that have sprung up across the country in the absence of a strong central government.

Somalis say the United States caused some confusion by advocating a “dual-track” program that supports a strong central government in the first track and honors smaller regional authorities in the second.

The program sounded to some like it was promising to recognize any and all of these local administrations.

Swan said the policy is more discriminating than that.

“But it is clear that while we are happy to have conversations and discussions with any of these new administrations that are announced or proposed, that our direct assistance and our more active support will be contingent on demonstrations that these administrations are functional on the ground and have genuine representation of their populations,” Swan said.

Somalia has not had a stable central government in 20 years, since warlords overthrew President Mohamed Siad Barre.

Since it was established in 2006, the TFG has missed all of its previous deadlines for holding national elections and completing a constitution, and many analysts are doubtful this year will be any different.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs