By William Hague
Ten days ago I stood alongside the President of Somalia and watched the Union Flag fly once again over a British Embassy in Mogadishu for the first time in twenty two years. It was a proud moment, showing how far Somalia has come in recent years and the deep relationship between our two countries.
For twenty two years, the people of Somalia have suffered appallingly from conflict and insecurity. Two generations of Somali children have grown up without access to healthcare, schools and jobs. Over a million Somalis were internally displaced, while hundreds of thousands more became refugees in neighbouring countries. And many thousands of Somalis lost their lives. Terrorists and extremists used the absence of the rule of law in Somalia to gain a foothold. Yet against all the odds, the extraordinarily talented and resilient people of Somalia kept the hope alive that one day they would rebuild their homes and their livelihoods and create a peaceful future for their children.
In the last year Somalia has made extraordinary progress. A new Federal Government has been formed. Al Shabaab has lost large areas of territory. The Somali diaspora are returning, and some people are now able to rebuild their properties and businesses. In Mogadishu, despite some deadly terrorist attacks, there is a palpable sense of optimism. This progress has been underpinned by the determined support of the international community.
Huge challenges undoubtedly remain, and we are under no illusion about the efforts that will be required from Somalia, its neighbours and from the international community if this recent progress is to become irreversible. But we now have a unique opportunity to help Somalia renew itself, and to increase our common security in the process.
Tomorrow, Somalia and the United Kingdom will co-host an international conference in London bringing together other 50 countries and organisations in support of Somalia.
The purpose of the conference is to put the weight of the international community behind the Government of Somalia’s plans to develop effective security and police forces; a functioning justice system; and well-managed, transparent public finances to provide services to the Somali public and ultimately pave the way for international financial institutions to be able to work with Somalia.
At the conference we will be urging all countries present to spell out how they can support these plans, by technical assistance or funding for organisations implementing programmes on the ground.
This conference is a historic opportunity for leading countries of the world to demonstrate their commitment to the Somali people.
We must help the new Government of Somalia to end the threats of war, terrorism, piracy and famine which have dominated Somalis’ lives for far too long, and to make the most of this opportunity to build a peace and stability for all Somalis.
Now is the time to stand by Somalis as they rebuild their country. The United Kingdom and Somalia are bound by living ties which stretch back into history. Somali communities across the UK are incredibly generous, contributing their hard-won earnings in remittances back to Somalia and offering their expertise to help reconstruction and development. Drawing strength from these links, our two countries will work together to ensure that the hope and optimism of the last year is translated into lasting progress and a secure and peaceful future for Somalia.
Note: William Hague is UK’s Foreign Secretary