Representatives of more than 40 countries and international organizations are meeting in London today to discuss how to restore stability to Somalia.
The conference, hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron and attended by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, will focus on promoting security and political processes as well as combating terrorism and piracy originating in the war-torn Horn of Africa country, Cameron said.
“Pirates are disrupting vital trade routes and kidnapping tourists; young minds are being poisoned by radicalism, breeding terrorism that is threatening not just Somalia but the whole world,” Cameron said in a speech to open the conference. “It is in all our interests to try and help the Somali people to address these problems.”
The nation has been wracked by civil war since the ouster of Mohamed Siad Barre, the former dictator, in 1991. Al-Shabaab, a militant group linked to al-Qaeda, controls most of southern and central Somalia and has been fighting the president’s administration in the capital, Mogadishu, in a bid to establish an Islamic state.
“For two decades politicians in the West have too often dismissed the problems in Somalia as simply too difficult and too remote to deal with,” Cameron said. “Engagement has been sporadic and half-hearted. That fatalism has failed Somalia. And it has failed the international community too. Today we have an unprecedented opportunity to change that. There is a real momentum right now.”
The United Nations Security Council yesterday authorized an increase in the African Union peacekeeping mission, which includes soldiers from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti, to 17,731 troops from 12,000. Kenya deployed troops in southern Somalia in October in pursuit of al-Shabaab.
More than 3,500 Somalis are actives as pirates, the UN said Feb. 16, while a further 1,000 are in custody in 20 countries. Somali pirate attacks rose to a record 237 in 2011, with ransoms of $160 million paid to release 31 hijacked vessels, according to a One Earth Future Foundation report. Piracy cost the shipping industry and governments $6.9 billion last year, including $2.7 billion in extra fuel to speed up through the seas off Somalia and $1.3 billion on military operations, according to the foundation.