W. Hague: Why UK Somalia conference matters

Halkaan ka akhri

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague says that the London conference on Somalia comes at a “moment of opportunity”.

Things have improved in Somalia, and Britain is bringing the international community together to help get the political processes in place, he said.

He told the BBC the conference mattered because Somalia had been “world’s most failed state for the last 20 years”.

It had been a “humanitarian catastrophe” for a year and a potential base for terrorism and piracy, he said.

Ahead of the conference, key Somali leaders agreed a plan to provide a new, smaller parliament and an upper house of elders and end the two decades long political crisis.

The deal came at a meeting in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, but did not include some key actors.

Al-Shabab militants, who control large areas of central and south Somalia, and the self-declared independent state of Somaliland did not take part.

Mr Hague told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show the Somalia conference was an example “of how in foreign policy… we’re not just reacting to events now, we are actually trying to solve problems before they get worse, to save lives, to save ourselves having to intervene at a later stage”.

He said helping Somalia mattered because as many as 100,000 people had starved to death in the past year.

He added: “It is potentially a base for terrorist activities as well as pirate activities which would be on an increased scale if we didn’t do something about it.

“Now there’s a moment of opportunity because things have improved a little in Somalia and Britain is in a position to bring the world together, to do the right things to get the right political process.”

The agreement reached in Somalia at the weekend is seen as providing the first indication of what Somalis would like to see from the conference

For three days Somali leaders had met in Garowe, the capital of Puntland.

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was joined by leaders of the pro-government militia, al-Sunna Wal Jamaaca, and senior officials from another semi-autonomous region, Galmudug.

The consultative conference hammered out a blueprint for a future government, to replace the current transitional government, whose mandate expires in August.

Somalia would become a federal state, with Mogadishu as the federal capital.

The plan envisages:

  • 225 MPs, halving the existing number
  • an upper chamber of 54 Somali elders
  • women would make up 30% of parliament
  • civil society and “respected women” will nominate and select the women members
  • parliamentarians will be drawn from Somalia’s traditional regions and reflect the nation’s clans

The Garowe agreement was witnessed by representatives of the international community, including the African Union and United Nations special representative, Augustine Mahiga.

Matt Baugh, the British ambassador to Somalia, welcomed the agreement as “a step forward in the political process”, but warned that all parties to the plan would have to “deliver on what they have said they are going to do”.

After so many agreements in recent years, there remains much scepticism among Somali observers about whether this plan can succeed and many details need to be worked out, starting at the Somali conference in London.

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