The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission to Kenya to promote democracy and human rights in Somalia. For background on Somalia's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
and the International Religious Freedom Reports
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The overall U.S. human rights and democracy strategy in the country centered on promoting inclusive political dialogue, and building the capacity of local authorities, particularly the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFI), to respond to local needs. To that end the United States targeted building the capacity of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to increase security, govern more effectively, deliver services, and take the lead on tasks to ensure a stable political transition. Promoting and strengthening good governance and political competition and consensus-building remains a key objective for the United States to help the country become a more inclusive democratic state. Continued engagement with Somaliland, Puntland, and other regional authorities remains important to consolidate their democratic achievements. U.S. priorities in Somaliland are to support stability, democracy, and a transparent presidential and local electoral process in 2010. The United States also considers a free, professional, and robust media and civil society essential to Somalia's democratic progress. To support greater representation, the United States' strategy to promote democratic ideals targets the better incorporation of women and minorities into the process.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
The United States provided equipment, training, and capacity building assistance to a wide range of TFI that included the Office of the President, Prime Minister, Central Bank, Office of the Auditor General and Accountant General, independent commissions, and 18 ministries. The United States provided training and equipment to the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP) to enable it to focus on the critical tasks of accomplishing the transitional legislative agenda and contributing to reconciliation and the peace process. The United States strengthened the capacity of the TFP by providing training to members of parliament (MPs) on conflict mitigation, public hearings, freedom of speech, freedom of expression and the Media Law, and committee planning and procedure. As a result of U.S. support and technical assistance, the TFP undertook specific activities to build a legislative agenda and trained groups in inclusive consensus building techniques. This included working with a women's caucus in the TFP; improving MP-constituent relations; developing issue-based coalitions comprising MPs, civil society organizations, and the private sector; creating working groups connecting TFP committees with government ministries; and forging coalitions to support the development of the constitution.
U.S. support to the Ministry of Constitutional and Federal Affairs enabled the TFG to reconstitute the Independent Federal Constitution Commission, with the inclusion of new members from the opposition, and launch a civic education, media and public consultation strategy. U.S. diplomatic engagement continued to be central in strengthening the TFG to further political dialogue and reconciliation with opposition groups and to undertake the drafting of a new constitution.
To address corruption, U.S. diplomatic engagement facilitated an agreement between the TFG and an internationally recognized audit firm to provide oversight and accountability. The U.S. provided technical expertise and basic equipment to the Central Bank and loaned four of its senior staff to the Central Bank of Kenya for on-the-job training. In Puntland and Somaliland, the United States supported the creation of Economic Management Units, which provide technical support to the Ministries of Finance and Planning, and to the cabinet on the formulation of fiscal policy, as well as to the Budget Department of the Ministry of Finance on budget preparation. The United States continues to provide technical and financial assistance to key federal institutions to better administer and manage core government functions.
In Somaliland, the United States significantly contributed to mediation efforts to broker an agreement on the presidential electoral process. The United States funded an external assessment of the voter registration list during the registration exercise. The United States funded the production and printing of a training manual for thousands of Somaliland political party agents and domestic observers and a series of public dialogues and TV debates to encourage participation and promote citizen advocacy. In Puntland, the United States supported Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to construct two halls that will be used by peace and conflict resolution committees, traditional elders, and government agencies in resolving conflicts in the Nugal and Mudug areas.
Public diplomacy efforts focused on engaging with Somalis living in the country and overseas. The mission sponsored press events, including interviews, Web chats, press releases, and cultural programs in the country and in the Somali areas of Kenya, to include the Dadaab refugee camps, engaging the media about U.S. policy on democratic principles and human rights issues. The mission maintains a Virtual Presence Post (VPP) Web site, which is used to highlight U.S. human rights policy. The mission directly engaged with Somalis in Eastleigh, Nairobi's Somali enclave, as well as with Somalis in northeast Kenya, including the majority-Somali Dadaab refugee camps. The public diplomacy unit offers small grants to local partners within the country to conduct programs focused on the themes of peace and reconciliation and renunciation of violence.
To promote media freedom, the mission engaged with the TFG and regional authorities, journalist organizations, and media outlets to address incidents threatening freedom of the press. The mission played a direct role in gaining the release of a journalist detained by regional authorities in Puntland. The mission publicly condemned the deaths and arrests of journalists. It also expressed concern to the TFG, authorities in Puntland, and Somaliland when journalists were arrested, threatened, or otherwise harassed. The United States supported radio programs that addressed political topics and expanded the reach and quality of radio programs in the country through developing the capacity of media houses, journalist associations, and journalists.
Through training, the United States strengthened the professionalism and financial management of media outlets and media associations. The provision of equipment such as video cameras, desktop computers, still digital cameras, video mixers, printers, and printing materials, as well as training for capacity building of employee journalists, enhanced the production capacity of media outlets. The financial sustainability of the news outlets was enhanced through financial assistance and training on transparent and accountable financial, procurement, and operations procedures and policies. The United States provided direct assistance to the TFG's Ministry of Information, ensuring that the TFG was able to broadcast messages of anti-extremism and respect for a free media.
The United States contributed to the instrumental role played by civil society in promoting peace, social and economic development, and democratic governance. The United States strengthened CSOs and media groups. Activities included quick impact projects to strengthen CSOs' ability to advocate for peace and good governance; support media sector development; engage the Somali diaspora; and support advocacy for improving the operating environment for media and civil society in the country. The organizations designed and implemented advocacy campaigns that addressed women's rights and participation in decision making, media freedom, good governance, and conflict mitigation. Many CSOs identified cases of human rights abuses and engaged local authorities to address the abuses. Other U.S.-sponsored CSO advocacy campaigns promoted peaceful coexistence among the clan groups living along the contested border between Somaliland and Puntland; improved transparency, accountability, and organizational management systems in a local municipality in Somaliland; and the right of Somaliland squatters to be permitted access to basic necessities such as schools, water, and sanitation.
The United States provided almost 2,000 men and women from minority groups with conflict management training in order to enable them to manage relations with their more powerful neighbors. The United States supported women's political participation in the TFP, resulting in an official women's caucus and the development of civil society advocacy campaigns that addressed women's rights. In partnership with advocates for women's rights, the mission hosted programs to highlight human rights and women's political empowerment. In Somaliland, the United States funded workshops on constituency outreach and collaboration with civil society and marginalized groups for 64 national legislators. A constituency outreach manual was compiled and distributed to every parliamentarian and parliamentary staff member.