Saturday, April 27, 2013

Why UK Is Opening New Embassy In Somalia

Britain believes that the work a new embassy in Somalia could do justifies the risk of returning to the country.

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague.
William Hague: 'No illusions'
Tim Marshall
Foreign Affairs Editor
Sky News Foreign Affairs Editor Tim Marshall
The opening of a new British embassy in Mogadishu signals two things; that the UK Government feels the Somalia capital is now stable enough for its diplomats to work, and that the work they will do is worth the on-going risk a presence in the city brings.
The previous embassy, which was closed in 1991 and is now ruined by fighting, was in the port area.
The new offices, opened today, are at Mogadishu International Airport, one of the more secure areas in a country still wracked with violence. A small contingent of security staff will protect the embassy.
The flag raising ceremony at the embassy follows an exchange of ambassadors between the two countries, and comes in the run up to the Somalia Conference in London on May 7.
Somalia is strategically important, both for its position on the Horn of Africa, and for its recently confirmed energy reserves. Because the country does not have a fully functioning infrastructure, profiting from its hydro carbons remains a plan for the future, but the UK and other countries are positioning themselves to co-operate with the new federal government.
Somalia is struggling to emerge from decades of civil war, foreign intervention, and most recently, Islamist groups fighting for control of the country. The ensuing violence, poverty and unemployment helped propel the huge outbreak of piracy which has so troubled the Gulf of Aden, and beyond, over the past 10 years.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, speaking at the site of the new embassy, said: "Somalia has been through a dramatic shift over the last year but continues to face huge challenges.
"We should be under no illusions as to the sustained efforts that will be required, in Somalia and from its international partners, to ensure that Somalia continues to make progress."
The al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group has now been mostly pushed out of the capital, and the port city of Kismayo, toward the northern jungles and mountains. However, it is still capable of major terrorist attacks such as the one on Mogadishu’s main court complex this month which killed 34 civilians.
A nine-man squad stormed their way into the complex, some blowing up their suicide vests, others spraying the area with gunfire. It was by far the worst terrorist incident in the country for months.
Al Shabaab used to control large parts of the capital until 2011 when it abandoned territory in favour of a terrorist campaign. African Union and Somali National Army forces have gradually expanded control of various regions, and helped by Western unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, have been successfully pushing the group’s fighters northwards.
However, they remain a threat to the government and are determined to destabilise the country.

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