Monday, August 3, 2009

Clinton Will Meet with Somali Leader During AGOA Forum

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to meet with President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government on the sidelines at the 8th Annual AGOA Forum to show support for his efforts to restore order to the conflict-weary African nation, a senior U.S. diplomat says.

Clinton will meet with Sheikh Sharif at the U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, known more commonly as the AGOA Forum, in Nairobi, Kenya, August 4-6. The secretary is launching an 11-day, seven-nation trip to Africa to underscore the U.S. commitment to the continent.

"We think that his government ... offers the best possible chance for restoring stability to southern Somalia, which has been troubled over the last 20 years by enormous violence and civil conflict," Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson said at a July 30 State Department press briefing.

During her visit to Africa, Clinton will travel to Kenya for the AGOA Forum and to South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde, Carson said.

"The secretary's trip follows the themes laid out by President Obama during his visit to Ghana: supporting strong and sustainable democratic governments, promoting sustainable economic development, strengthening public health and education, [and] assisting in the prevention, mitigation and resolution of conflicts around Africa," Carson said.

"The United States wants to partner with African leaders to advance the president's vision, which is also a vision shared by many African leaders," he added.

Carson, who will accompany Clinton along with other senior U.S. officials, said this trip underlines the U.S. commitment to partner with African governments, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations and the public. The trip comes three weeks after President Obama visited Ghana to give an Africa-wide speech on the U.S. concern for Africa's growth and future.

SOMALIA'S PROBLEMS SPREAD

"We think that the support for Sheikh Sharif and his government offers an opportunity to be able to restore some stability, fight against the Somali Islamic extremists of al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam, the two groups that are working against them," Carson added.

The problems that plague southern Somalia have begun to carry over to other areas of the region and internationally, Carson said.

"We see in neighboring Kenya, to the south, some 270,000 refugees in the Dadaab refugee camp, 5,000 to 6,000 Somali refugees flowing across the border each month into Kenya, putting enormous stress on that country's infrastructure and also a burden for the U.N.," he said.

And in the international arena, he said, maritime piracy has emerged, generated in large part because of the continuing instability in Somalia. He said the United States is prepared to provide additional assistance to the Transitional Federal Government and the African Union Mission to Somalia, which has Ugandan and Burundian troops in the country.