William Hague’s Visit to Somalia: An Important Step Forward
William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, visited Mogadishu, Somalia on Thursday. Hague is one of the most senior British officials to visit the country in almost two decades.
Hague spent time meeting with Somalia’s President Sharif Sheih Ahmed ahead of a meeting to be held in London on February 23rd tasked with dealing with the various crises facing the Horn of Africa today.
Somalia, or “the world’s most failed state” as Hague labeled it after his visit, faces a myriad of problems. Not only is the majority of the south controlled by the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab but the country has also been without an effective central government since 1991. Somalia is a country plagued by war, drought, famine, and piracy.
However, despite the “failed state” label that Somalia seems to have been permanently branded with, there is hope for future stability. If efforts are strengthened by the international community and government officials in Somalia to steer the country towards a position of greater security, maybe, with time, Somalia’s reputation as the world’s most failed state will alter.
UK efforts to engage with Somalia come at a good time. Namely, despite al-Shabaab dominance in the south, African Union troops are doing a commendable job of keeping al-Shabaab militants out of Mogadishu. Alongside this, growing global confidence in Somalia can be illustrated by recent visits from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the UN chief Ban Ki-Moon, and the UK International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell. Hague is also looking to establish a British embassy in Mogadishu when security is improved.
Therefore, despite some lingering criticism from Somali politicians that Hague’s visit was ‘unannounced’, I feel it is important to applaud Hague for prioritising something that is typically shoved to the bottom of priority lists. His push to tackle the causes of Somalia’s insecurity and conflict should be regarded as an important first step.
Although Hague’s trip marks the effective beginning of an international effort to help lift Somalia out of its current state, the February conference will shed more light on exactly what can realistically be done. The agenda is dominated by talks about local stability, working with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), counter-terrorism (by means of strengthening regional cooperation to make it easier for neighbouring countries to dislocate terrorist networks), tackling piracy, and strengthening efforts to help those affected by the current drought and famine that is crippling the horn of Africa.
I am keen to see what plans are put forward to tackle these issues as a combination of unhelpful development aid and unrealistic policies have already been tried and failed.