UK appoints first ambassador to Somalia in 21 years.


Halkaan ka akhri


Britain has appointed its first ambassador to Somalia in 21 years, as the foreign secretary visited the country.

Arriving in the capital, Mogadishu, amid tight security on Thursday, William Hague appointed Matt Baugh as the senior UK Somalia representative. Baugh will be based in Kenya‘s capital, Nairobi, until security conditions permit the opening of an embassy in Mogadishu.

Somali president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, centre, receives diplomatic credentials from Matt Baugh, with William Hague

The UK is hosting a global conference on Somalia on 23 February. Hague described Somalia as “the world’s most failed state”.

The last British foreign secretary to visit Mogadishu was Douglas Hurd in 1992, when Somalia was collapsing into civil war.

Hague’s 10-minute drive from the city’s airport to the presidential residence at Villa Somalia was made in a small fleet of heavily protected armoured vehicles.

He met the Somali president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and said the UK would help Somalia during a year of political transition.

Somalia descended into chaos after the dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991. A western-backed transition government has been battling the al-Qaida-linked insurgents al-Shabaab for the past five years.

A 10,000-strong African Union force, Amisom, has helped drive al-Shabaab out of the capital, but much of the south remains in the hands of the rebels. Kenya and Ethiopia have both sent forces into Somalia to battle al-Shabaab.

The removal of militants from the capital, combined with the offensives by neighbouring states, have raised hopes of defeating al-Shabaab, although Mogadishu remains prone to almost daily bomb attacks.

“We need to step this up,” Hague was quoted as saying by news agencies. “We are not complacent about it.”

In 2010 the MI5 director-general, Jonathan Evans, warned that it was “only a matter of time” before terrorists trained in Somali camps inspired acts of violence on the streets of Britain.

Hague said: “For the security of the UK, it matters a lot for Somalia to become a more stable place. Some progress has been made on this, partly because of the progress of the Amisom force.

“One of the objectives of our conference in London is to strengthen counter-terrorism co-operation to make it easier for countries in this region to disrupt terrorist networks, to disrupt their financing and the movement of potential terrorists.”

Among the officials meeting Hague was the mayor of Mogadishu, Mohamoud Ahmed Nur. He warned that with 350,000 Somalis currently living in the Britain, it could not afford to ignore his country’s problems.

He said disaffected young British Somalis were leaving to train in al-Shabaab terror camps before returning to the UK.

“Whatever happens in Mogadishu, in Somalia, will happen in Great Britain,” he said, according to the Press Association. “We have interlocking interests.

“There are Somali British fighting alongside al-Qaida and al-Shabaab. They may go and they may come back. Those who leave school with no qualifications, those who go to prison, they say: ‘Why should I stay in Britain?’ So they go and they fight. They have revenge in their hearts.”

Hague’s visit came as Kenyan and Somali troops seized two towns in southern Somalia from al-Shabaab in an attempt to consolidate control of border areas ahead of an eventual push on rebel strongholds, a Kenyan military spokesman said.

There are six diplomatic missions in Mogadishu, representing Djibouti, Ethiopia, Libya, Sudan, Turkey and Yemen. The UN’s special envoy to Somalia moved to Mogadishu last month.


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