Good morning. I want to thank Prime Minister Cameron and President Hassan Sheikh for hosting today’s conference on Somalia.
When we last met at Lancaster House, the fate of Somalia’s transition was very much in doubt. But thanks to the courageous efforts of the Somali people and the sustained and unified support of AMISOM, its partners and the broader international community, we return to London today at the beginning of a new and more hopeful era for Somalia.
The initial transition has come to an end, a newly elected government is firmly in place, and dialogue about the future of Somalia is underway. In January, for the first time in over two decades, the United States announced its formal recognition of the Government of Somalia and we continue to deepen our ties and partnership with President Hassan Sheikh and his government.
But while we work together to build up Somalia, al-Shabaab continues to try to tear it apart. When the world tried to partner and address Somalia’s devastating famine in 2011, al-Shabaab senselessly denied access to relief workers and food assistance, leading to the gratuitous death of tens of thousands of Somali men, women, and children in areas it controlled. And the heinous attack on the Benadir Court Complex in Mogadishu earlier this month serves as a reminder of the brutality of Al Shabaab, the gravity of obstacles in our way, and the importance of our unwavering commitment to the stabilization and development of Somalia.
Political dialogue and stabilization are essential to improving security in Somalia over the long-term. We commend President Hassan Sheikh’s recent visit to Puntland and Prime Minister Saaid’s nationwide listening tour and outreach to local and regional leaders throughout the country.
Overcoming grievances hardened over decades of conflict will take time. So to allow political reconciliation to stay on track in the midst of active efforts by spoilers to derail it, the international community must increase its support to Somalia’s security sector reform.
Let me highlight three areas of security sector reform that we believe deserve greater attention over the next year.
First, we commend the Government of Somalia for releasing its comprehensive National Security Plan. It is now incumbent upon Somalia’s international partners to support this Somali-led process, improve coordination on military and police assistance, and reduce duplication of effort. And, to ensure the long-term sustainability, effectiveness, and accountability of its military forces, the Government of Somalia must gradually assume greater responsibility for troop salary payment, in line with rising revenues.
Our successful efforts to combat piracy in the Horn of Africa show that hard work and effective collaboration can yield results. Thanks to our shared efforts, we saw a 75 percent decline in overall pirate attacks in 2012 compared with 2011, and a 90 percent reduction in hostage taking.
Second, security sector reform must include the development of an independent, credible, and transparent justice sector. The Government of Somalia rightly recognizes this as a priority and so should its international partners.
Third, we fully support Somali government efforts to demobilize, disarm, and reintegrate those who reject al-Shabaab. We look forward to joining the United Nations and the Government of Japan in supporting the Disengaged Fighter Program, and we urge other partners to do the same.
As we accelerate our security sector reform efforts, we cannot lose sight of the importance of protecting vulnerable populations, strengthening accountability and civilian control, and building respect for human rights and humanitarian law. These are all essential prerequisites for legitimate and effective security institutions that have the trust and confidence of the Somali people.
Ultimately, it is up to the people of Somalia to ensure that reform succeeds. But we all have a responsibility to support their efforts. And so I am pleased to announce today that, pending Congressional notification and consultation, the United States will provide nearly $40 million in additional funding to support development, stabilization, and security sector efforts necessary to consolidate Somalia’s impressive security gains.
While Somalia remains a fragile state, the courage of its people and leadership remains strong. So long as it does, and so long as Somalia’s friends and partners maintain their focus and support, we can be confident about Somalia’s future.