Somalis celebrate US recognition
By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG: It is a Thursday evening in Mayfair – also known as little Mogadishu among Johannesburg’s residents. A group of middle aged Somali men are seated in a restaurant quietly listening to a televised announcement made by the US secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, recognizing the new Somali government led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
“I am extremely happy the United States has finally recognized our new government. I believe the US government will now help Somalia in terms of developmental aid which is much need for the reconstruction of our ‘wrecked’ institutions, such as education, health, infrastructure and human resource development,” Bashir Yunus, a Canadian-Somali currently doing business in South Africa explained.
Most of the Somali men seated in this restaurant related that they were closely following political developments back home. “I think the new US/Somali relations will make other world powers to also recognize the new Somali government, because the US is a world power and almost every nation in the world emulates them,” 56-year-old Yahaya Noordeen related.
The excitement and optimism was not limited to Johannesburg. The same sentiments were shared in Cape Town where the largest Somali community in South Africa resides. “The US recognition of the Somali government will pave the way for other countries to follow suit and start diplomatic relations with Somalia,” Ahmed Bodibodi stated confidently.
He was now looking forward to the day when the US government would establish an embassy in Mogadishu which will make it easy for Somalis wishing to travel to the United States to get visas. He added that currently Somalis wishing to travel to the United States have to go to Nairobi in Kenya or Kampala in Uganda where the US has embassies. This, he said, was too costly for most Somalis.
Washington had not recognized a Somali government since warlords toppled dictator, Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. But in making her announcement on Thursday, Clinton said times have changed, citing the armed group al-Shabab’s retreat from every major Somali city. She said the US had provided $780m to African forces to help fight the militant group.
The White House also expressed optimism about Somalia’s future and pledged to work with the country’s new government to promote peace and security, improve the economy and boost social services. Obama has urged his Somali counterpart to “seize this unique opportunity to turn the page on two decades of civil strife”, according to a White House statement.
“If the Somali government wants to succeed it should not be seen to be overdoing it in siding with the west. This could lead to the return of al-Shabab who has a hatred for the west,” Andrew Attah Asmoah, senior researcher on Horn of Africa at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) told said on Friday. He said recognition will help Somalia receive greater assistance from US and international aid agencies.
Asmoah also noted that the recognition was good for Somalis who live in the Diaspora as this would allow them to be viewed as people from a recognized state, compared to current stance where they are seen as people from a failed state. He said the new relations between the US and Somalia will lead to economic development and prosperity for Somalia. The US recognition of Somalia comes barely one year after Turkey recognized the new Somali government.
Meanwhile, last year Britain organized the London Somali conference aimed at discussing ways of ending the two decades of civil war in Somalia. Several leaders attended the conference. Prior to the conference British foreign secretary William Hague also met with the Somalia community in Cape Town where he sought their views that was forwarded to the London conference. ( This piece was first published on the vocfm website)