Remarks With President of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud After Their Meeting
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
January 17, 2013
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon, everyone. It is a great privilege for us to be welcoming President Hassan Sheikh and his delegation here to the State Department. Today’s meeting has been a long time in the making. Four years ago, at the start of the Obama Administration, Somalia was, in many ways, a different country than it is today. The people and leaders of Somalia have fought and sacrificed to bring greater stability, security, and peace to their nation.
There is still a long way to go and many challenges to confront, but we have seen a new foundation for that better future being laid. And today, we are taking an important step toward that future. I am delighted to announce that for the first time since 1991, the United States is recognizing the Government of Somalia.
Now before I talk about what comes next for this partnership, it is worth taking a moment to remember how we got here and how far we have come together. When I entered the State Department in January 2009, al-Shabaab controlled most of Mogadishu and south and central Somalia. It looked at the time like it would even gain more territory. The people of Somalia had already endured many years of violence and isolation, and we wanted to change that. We wanted to work together, not only with the people of Somalia but with governments across the region, the international community, and other likeminded friends.
In early 2009, the final Transitional Federal Government began its work. Somali security forces, supported by the African Union Mission in Somalia, and troops from Uganda and Burundi and now Kenya and Djibouti began to drive al-Shabaab out of cities and towns. Humanitarian aid finally began getting to the people in need. Local governments resumed their work. Commerce and travel began to pick up. Now progress was halting at times, but it was unmistakable. And today, thanks to the extraordinary partnership between the leaders and people of Somalia, with international supporters, al-Shabaab has been driven from Mogadishu and every other major city in Somalia.
While this fight was going on, at the same time, Somalia’s leaders worked to create a functioning democratic government. Now that process, too, was quite challenging. But today, for the first time in two decades, this country has a representative government with a new president, a new parliament, a new prime minister, and a new constitution. Somalia’s leaders are well aware of the work that lies ahead of them, and that it will be hard work. But they have entered into this important mission with a level of commitment that we find admirable.
So Somalia has the chance to write a new chapter. When Assistant Secretary Carson visited Mogadishu in June, the first U.S. Assistant Secretary to do so in more than 20 years, and when Under Secretary Sherman visited a few months ago, they discovered a new sense of optimism and opportunity. Now we want to translate that into lasting progress.
Somalia’s transformation was achieved first and foremost by the people and leaders of Somalia, backed by strong, African-led support. We also want to thank the African Union, which deserves a great deal of credit for Somalia’s success. The United States was proud to support this effort. We provided more than $650 million in assistance to the African Union Mission in Somalia, more than 130 million to Somalia’s security forces. In the past two years, we’ve given nearly $360 million in emergency humanitarian assistance and more than $45 million in development-related assistance to help rebuild Somalia’s economy. And we have provided more than $200 million throughout the Horn of Africa for Somali refugee assistance.
We’ve also concentrated a lot of our diplomacy on supporting democratic progress. And this has been a personal priority for me during my time as Secretary, so I’m very pleased that in my last weeks here, Mr. President, we’re taking this historic step of recognizing the government.
Now, we will continue to work closely, and the President and I had a chance to discuss in detail some of the work that lies ahead and what the government and people of Somalia are asking of the United States now. Our diplomats, our development experts are traveling more frequently there, and I do look forward to the day when we can reestablish a permanent U.S. diplomatic presence in Mogadishu.
We will also continue, as we well know, to face the threat of terrorism and violent extremism. It is not just a problem in Somalia; it is a problem across the region. The terrorists, as we have learned once again in the last days, are not resting, and neither will we. We will be very clear-eyed and realistic about the threat they continue to pose. We have particular concerns about the dangers facing displaced people, especially women, who continue to be vulnerable to violence, rape, and exploitation.
So today is a milestone. It’s not the end of the journey but it’s an important milestone to that end. We respect the sovereignty of Somalia, and as two sovereign nations we will continue to have an open, transparent dialogue about what more we can do to help the people of Somalia realize their own dreams.
The President had a chance to meet President Obama earlier today at the White House, and that was a very strong signal to the people of Somalia of our continuing support and commitment. So as you, Mr. President, and your leaders work to build democratic institutions, protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, respond to humanitarian needs, build the economy, please know that the United States will be a steadfast partner with you every step of the way. Thank you.
PRESIDENT HASSAN SHEIKH: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, sir.
PRESIDENT HASSAN SHEIKH: Thank you, Madam Secretary, for the great words that you expressed on the realities on the ground in Somalia and the future of Somalia and the future of the relationship between Somalia and the United States.
First of all, I would like to thank the Government and the people of the United States of America for the warm welcome accorded to me and to my delegation for the last two days. I am very pleased and honored to come to Washington and to meet Madam Secretary to discuss on bilateral issues and the mutual interests of our two countries. And Somalia is very grateful for the unwavering support from the United States to the people of Somalia. U.S. is a major donor to Somalia, which include humanitarian assistance and help toward security. We both have common interests and common enemy, which we must redouble our efforts to bring peace and stability in Somalia.
Somalia is emerging from a very long, difficult period, and we are now moving away from the chaos, instability, extremism, piracy, an era, to an era of peaceful and development. We are aiming to make a valuable contribution to the region and the world at large.
Today I provided an update of the huge progress made in the areas of security, political development, social services, and establishing reliable and credible governance institutions to Madam Secretary. This is an excellent time to me to visit the U.S.A. and to meet with U.S. leaders here in Washington, as Somalia is entering a new phase which requires from all of us to work hard with a very few to bring peace with a heart and view to bring peace and stability in Somalia.
Today, we had fruitful and frank discussions on many subjects that are of mutual interest to all of us and to the world at large. I am encouraged by the (inaudible) the energy, the willingness of interest shown to me and my country, and I am hopeful that Somalia will reclaim its role in the international landscape and play a more active and useful member of the nations of the world.
We are working for a Somalia that is at peace with itself and with its neighbors, where its citizens can go about their daily lives in safety, provided their families with confidence and gratefulness. Instability, violent extremism, and crime in Somalia are a threat not only to Somalia, but to the region and the world at large. We look to the future with hope, pride, and optimism.
And finally, I wish Madam Secretary all of the best for her future, and we all miss her greatly, and a warm welcome to the new Secretary of State and the new administration that will take over. Somalia will remain grateful to the unwavering support from the United States Government in the last 22 years that Somalia was in a difficult era. We remain and we will remain grateful to that (inaudible). And I say in front of you today thank you, America.