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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL 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.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid