Asharq Al-Awsat- The Somali Government has forestalled the meeting Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad will hold with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Kenyan capital Nairobi next week by concluding an unprecedented agreement with a private American company to manage its finances. Somali Foreign Minister Muhammad Abdullah Omar meanwhile said Sheikh Sharif would meet Clinton in Nairobi on the sidelines of an annual trade forum to be held on 5 August.
The US State Department announced in a statement the day before yesterday that Clinton intends to meet the Somali president who formed a transitional government during her tour of seven African countries next week. This will be the first meeting at this level between the Somali president who took office at the beginning of this year and a senior official in President Barack Obama’s administration. Following her visit to Kenya, Clinton will go to South Africa and then Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Liberia, and Cape Verde and is expected to stress President Obama’s message which linked aid to rational governance in Africa.
A Somali Government source said President Sharif would brief the US secretary of state on the situation in Somalia and recent developments in it and would also thank the new US administration for its support for the Somali Government.
In statements he made to Asharq Al-Awsat from New York where he will participate today in the Security Council meeting to discuss his country’s demand to impose strict sanctions on Eritrea because of its interference in its internal affairs, the Somali foreign minister pointed out that several Somali ministers would participate in the Nairobi meeting between Sheikh Sharif and the US secretary of state, among them Omar himself, while Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmark would remain in the Somali capital Mogadishu. He added: “The Americans have always been good supporters of our government and the meeting demonstrates that the United States is supporting the government totally.”
Washington recently gave the Somali Government military equipment valued at $10 million and asked its allies in the Horn of Africa to give military assistance to Somalia. This was within the framework of its attempts to strengthen the capabilities of the authorities led by Sheikh Sharif against the Islamist insurgents who are seeking to topple him. The Somali foreign minister said: “We have optimistic expectations favorable to Somalia from what might result from the Nairobi meeting.” He pointed out that Washington supports the peace process and national reconciliation and accord and added: “For this government, this is the first meeting of its kind and is an important and remarkable one.” But Minister Omar denied that his government wants to ask for direct US military intervention to stop the war waged by the Islamist insurgents against it and said: “There will not be any US military intervention in Somalia. We did not and will not ask for this.” He also denied that US experts are helping training the Somalia Government’s forces saying there is a plan to train these forces in Djibouti under the sponsorship of France.
The French forces deployed in Djibouti intend to train 500 Somali military officers while the Djibouti forces will also train 1,000 Somali army personnel and policemen. Around 500 policemen and soldiers have arrived at the Djibouti army’s “Halhal” base to undergo intensive training and the remaining others are expected to arrive in the coming few days. The Somali foreign minister told Asharq Al-Awsat that the United Nations would lead a delegation in participation with the EU to choose the training programs for the government forces and pointed out that the United States would be represented in the delegation by one or two persons.
These moves follow the formation of a quadripartite committee from the Somali Government, the EU, the United Nations, and the African Union’s peacekeeping force (AMISOM) to supervise the security situation in the capital Mogadishu and rehabilitate and retain the various security and military forces loyal to Sheikh Sharif’s government. The Arab League [AL] is absent from this committee and the Somali foreign minister said: “We would like to see AL delegations and members soon in these moves that aim to reorganize the security situation in the country.” He then added: “Egypt and Syria offered in the past to train the security forces and army and we want to see officials from these two countries in Mogadishu soon to implement these proposals.”