UK Minister for Africa, Rory Stewart OBE MP, made his first visit to Somalia over the weekend where he spent two days in Mogadishu and Hargeisa.
Mr Stewart used his visit to follow up on the ambitious reform agenda agreed at the London Somalia Conference in May, and to see the UK’s humanitarian and development assistance to the Somali people in action.
Speaking at the end of his visit, Mr Stewart said:
“The UK is committed to supporting peace and prosperity in Somalia and we have played a leading role in the international community in providing assistance and support. Earlier this year we hosted the London Somalia Conference and I’ve been impressed by the significant progress made since then, particularly in the area of security sector reform.
“As the country continues to face a devastating drought, I’m proud of the UK’s unprecedented contribution to the swift humanitarian response which has saved many lives. I strongly believe that emergency relief needs to be part of a longer-term response to tackling underlying causes and breaking the cycle of humanitarian crises in Somalia and we are committed to working closely with the Somali government to achieve this goal.”
In Mogadishu, Mr Stewart had productive discussions with the Prime Minister; the Deputy Prime Minister, the Ministers of Planning, Defence and Internal Security, members of the international community and civil society. He welcomed the Government’s significant progress since coming to power and reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to supporting Somalia’s development.
He discussed the importance of security sector reform with key interlocutors, noting that this will enable Somalia to provide security to its people and address the threat of terrorist organisation Al Shabaab. The Minister also talked about the importance of addressing the root causes of violent extremism including tackling corruption, creating jobs and opportunities for young people and human rights protection for all Somalis.
Mr Stewart visited the UN’s Drought Operations Coordination Centre where he witnessed effective coordination between the UN, NGOs and the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs to tackle the humanitarian crisis. He also heard how the UK’s package of £170 million of emergency relief is helping to prevent famine in the country. In Hargeisa, he saw UK aid in action during a visit to a mother and child nutrition centre.
Whilst in Hargeisa, he also met with civil society representatives and the local Somaliland Government. Mr Stewart welcomed the forthcoming November elections and emphasised the importance of these being free and fair. He encouraged both the Somaliland Government and the Federal Government to take the opportunity offered by the elections to reinvigorate dialogue between them.
The Minister also met with young Somalilanders, including recipients of the UK’s prestigious Chevening Scholarship programme, to discuss their hopes and aspirations for the future.