News / Africa

Britain Vows to Step Up Fight Against Somali Terrorism, Piracy

Somali President Sharif Sheik Ahmed, center, receives diplomatic credentials from British ambassador to Somalia Matt Baugh, right, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, at Mogadishu's presidential palace, February 2, 2012.
Somali President Sharif Sheik Ahmed, center, receives diplomatic credentials from British ambassador to Somalia Matt Baugh, right, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, at Mogadishu's presidential palace, February 2, 2012.

In a visit to Somalia's capital of Mogadishu Thursday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague promised to step up the fight against terrorism and piracy. Hague is the first British foreign secretary to visit the war-ravaged city in two decades. 

Secretary Hague's visit comes during a time of relative peace and security in Mogadishu, since African Union (AMISOM) troops and forces of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) pushed al-Shabab out of the capital last month.

Hague announced that Britain has appointed its first ambassador to Somalia in more than two decades. Matt Baugh will serve as London's new senior envoy to Somalia and will be based in Kenya until security conditions allow an embassy to be built in Mogadishu.

Hague said the British government is well-prepared to do more to stabilize Somalia and to create more legitimacy and accountability in the political institutions.

“With the further expansion of the AMISOM forces, of which we hope will be agreed at the United Nation, for countries to work effectively together to counter terrorism and piracy, and to highlight the need for effective humanitarian and development aid in the future," he said. "Again so that this country can succeed in a way that it has not been possible over the last two decades.”  

In less than three weeks, the British government will host an international conference on Somalia in London, chaired by British Prime Minister David Cameron. More than 40 countries and international organizations are expected to attend the conference to address Somalia’s future.

Adjoa Anyimadu, the assistant Africa Program researcher for Chatham House, a foreign policy institute in London, said Hague is sending a message on behalf of the international community that they have an interest in peace in Somalia and they are willing to talk to Somali people about finding a solution.

“There is more feeling in the international community to spear a united approach to help Somalia solve its problems," she said. "Especially within the last year, when famine affected large part of Somalia, a lot of high-level officials from all over the world have taken real interest in what is going on there and are trying to come together to help Somalia find a solution, particularly as the TFG mandate expires in August.”

She also said there is an understanding within the international community that Somalia's political problems cannot be solved without involving Somalis in the discussion.

Secretary Hague says there is a future for Somalia and its people and the conference will be an important moment in the Somalia's history.

The country has not had a functioning central government since President Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. 

Despite recent victories over militant group al-Shabab, the transitional government asserts little authority outside Mogadishu, enabling pirates to operate on the country's coastline, while al-Shabab continues to control areas of central and southern Somalia.

Hopes for a turnaround have been hampered by infighting in the government. The country has gone through several prime ministers in the last few years, and lawmakers recently exchanged punches in parliament because of a dispute over the speaker.

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