News / Africa

Somalia Sends First-Ever Ambassador to South Africa

Anita Powell
For the first time ever, Somalia has sent an ambassador to South Africa, the continent’s economic powerhouse. New Ambassador Sayid Sheriff said he’s optimistic about planting Somalia’s diplomatic flag after decades of instability, and said he plans to reach out to the thousands of Somali refugees living in South Africa. South African President Jacob Zuma said his nation also plans to embark on ambitious projects to help the Horn of Africa nation get back on its feet after decades of war.

Sheriff is the first ambassador from Somalia to be sent to South Africa, the continent’s magnet for refugees, which attracts more asylum seekers than any other nation.

The arrival of new diplomats typically is a pomp-filled affair, and Tuesday night’s event in Pretoria was no different in that respect. The other 10 diplomats dutifully shook hands with South African President Jacob Zuma, handed over their credential letters and posed for photos.

Somalia’s presence at this ceremony, however, was special. That’s because for much of the last two decades, Somalia hasn’t had a functioning central government. The Horn of Africa nation is Africa’s poster child for disaster: It’s been wracked by civil war, it harbors al-Qaida-affiliated insurgents, it recently was ravaged by drought and famine, and it is the continent’s piracy hub.

Overcoming myriad challenges

Zuma recognized those hurdles in a speech addressed in part to the new ambassador.

“Their suffering through war and famine has been our suffering, and now that they are on the road to recovery and prosperity, we wish to walk beside them and to assist wherever we can with rebuilding your country," he said. "But I believe that what comes first is what Somalian people themselves do to be assisted. I was with the president in the [African Union] who made a very good speech in thanking Africa but at the same time, guaranteeing that Somalia will never go wrong again, but asking the support for us to help.”

Zuma said his nation has allocated 100 million rand - about $11 million - to help rebuild Somalia’s infrastructure and institutions.

After the ceremony, Sheriff said in an exclusive interview with VOA that Somalia has long had close ties to South Africa. The country supported the African National Congress during its fight against the apartheid government. But by the time South Africa became a full-fledged democracy in 1994, Somalia was mired in a civil war after the overthrow of its longtime dictator.

Rebuilding relationship

Sheriff said the two nations have a lot of catching up to do.

“We want to strengthen and consolidate the relation as much as we can. At the same time we have a very large community here in South Africa. The South Africans are absolutely assisting them. We are here now to serve them... so they can go back to their country and come back here, that’s why we are here now,” he said.

Sheriff warned that change would not come to Somalia immediately, and cited a setback - a Tuesday morning suicide blast near the presidential palace.

“You know when you are having a kind of civil war for 21 years, 22 years, you cannot turn it overnight. The peace cannot just come as a miracle from the sky. So, relatively, it’s quite peace[ful] and when we just compare with the past,” he said.

The Somali Embassy in Pretoria is now open for business. And in show of traditional Somali hospitality, Sheriff said "you are all welcome."

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid