(As delivered remarks)
Good morning and thank you, Minister Bonino and Minister Tedros, for co-chairing the Partner Forum, today. The United States recognizes and thanks IGAD for the crucial role it plays in regional stability in the Horn of Africa. We commend IGAD’s role in fostering the agreement between the Federal Government of Somalia and the Interim Jubbaland Administration. Without your assistance and guidance, the Jubbaland talks could have easily produced a very different outcome.
Let me turn, for a moment, to the past week’s heartbreaking events in Kenya. The United States condemns in the strongest terms the despicable terrorist attack on innocent civilians at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi. The United States is resolute in our support and commitment to regional stability in the Horn and in Somalia. The efforts of strategic partners here in this room today have contributed to improvements in Somalia’s security, but it is only through sustained commitment of the international community to AMISOM and to the Somali National Forces that the Somali people have the chance to rebuild their country. AMISOM has made tremendous strides to eliminate al-Shabaab from its strongholds. We, the international community, must continue to support AMISOM and the Somali National Army to be effective fighting forces to combat and eliminate al-Shabaab.
We recognize that for peace to take hold in Somalia, political coordination and cooperation between all regions is paramount. Only by welcoming parties to the governing process can a truly representative government flourish. We encourage the Federal Government of Somalia to continue discussions with existing and emerging regional entities to define and normalize relationships, and to reconcile political differences.
On the issue of refugees, so many of whom are generously hosted by partners with us today, It is critical that planning durable returns is coordinated regionally, among refugee hosting countries’ governments, the Somali government, UNHCR, and other key stakeholders. We support the voluntary repatriation of refugees in safety and dignity, when conditions are appropriate. Large-scale returns to Somalia before conditions are appropriate could threaten Somalia’s fragile stability, undermine regional security, and result in a renewed refugee crisis.
Somalia is a country with very real security, humanitarian, and political challenges; it is also a country that is evolving. Somalia has the best opportunity in decades to overcome its challenges, and we, their international partners, stand ready to answer the call to ensure stabilization in Somalia is realized.
Thank you Secretary General, President Mohamud, Ministers and IGAD members. The United States Government supports you and your mission.