(In progress) parliament and electing a president and speaker. Now that it has agreed to these tasks, we must help them accomplish those. The Transitional Federal Government was always meant to be just that: transitional. And it is past time for that transition to occur and for Somalia to have a stable government.
The outcome out last week’s meeting of Somali leaders in Garowe is an encouraging signal that more progress will be forthcoming soon. And I am pleased to see representatives from so many Somali political groups here today in a sign of their dedication to this effort. But time is of the essence, and I want to be clear: The international community will not support an extension of the TFG’s mandate beyond the date set in the roadmap, August 20th.
Now, yes, the goals we expect to achieve under this timeline are ambitious, but the people of Somalia have waited many years. They have heard many promises, they have seen many deadlines come and go, and it is time – past time – to buckle down and do the work that will bring stability to Somalia for the first time in many people’s lives. The position of the United States is straightforward: Attempts to obstruct progress and maintain the broken status quo will not be tolerated. We will encourage the international community to impose further sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes on people inside and outside the TFG who seek to undermine Somalia’s peace and security or to delay or even prevent the political transition.
As we proceed with political action, we must also keep advancing security, and there has been progress this past year. The AU mission in Somalia and the Somali National Security Forces are now in control of all of Mogadishu and are expanding their control beyond the capital. And a few weeks ago, the United States announced that the famine that killed tens of thousands of Somalis and displaced tens of thousands more has ended – though food security remains a serious concern. Now we must keep the pressure on al-Shabaab so that its grip on Somalia continues to weaken. The UN Security Council’s vote on Wednesday to increase AMISOM’s troop ceiling by nearly half and expand its mandate significantly is an excellent step.
More and more Somalis are seeing the threat that al-Shabaab poses to Somalia’s peace and security, as well as to the peace and security of Somalia’s neighbors. Especially in south-central Somalia, it has turned an already bad situation into a nightmare. It has dragged fathers and sons from their homes, forced them to fight in a hopeless, bloody conflict. It has forced young girls to marry foreign fighters. And when extreme food shortages struck last summer, al-Shabbab mercilessly helped turn those food shortages into a famine by blocking humanitarian assistance and letting children starve.
With its recent announcement that it has joined the al-Qaida terror network, al-Shabaab has proven, yet again, it is not on the side of Somalis but on the side of chaos, destruction, and suffering. It has also proven something else as well. It is weakening. Al-Shabaab and al-Qaida have turned to each other because both are embattled and isolated, especially now as the democratic revolutions, underway in many countries, are showing young people who might once have been attracted to extremist groups that a more constructive path is open to them. That is the future; Al-Shabaab and al-Qaida are the past.
Now all those who have not yet joined this effort to unify Somalia, who are sitting on the sidelines or actively obstructing progress, have a choice to make. They can support this movement and join their fellow Somalis in moving past the divisions and struggles for power that have held their nation back or they can be left behind. For our part, the United States will engage with all Somalis who denounce al-Shabaab’s leadership and the violence it espouses and who embrace the political roadmap and the fundamental rights and freedoms that all Somalis deserve. But we adamantly oppose negotiating with al-Shabaab.
Now the international community has a responsibility to provide effective help, and when I say international community, I include the people of Somalia, whether they live within Somalia in refugee camps outside the country, or as members of the large and thriving diaspora here in the UK or the U.S., Canada, Italy, Kenya, and elsewhere. Our success depends in no small measure on their participation, because after all, they are the ones with the most at stake.
I want to briefly mention three specific issues: First, we must cut al-Shabaab’s remaining financial lifelines. One of the reasons that they apparently agreed to join with al-Qaida is because they think they will obtain more funding from sources that unfortunately still continue to fund al-Qaida. We welcome the Security Council’s decision to impose an international ban on imports of charcoal from Somalia and urge the international community to begin implementing it immediately. The illicit charcoal trade provides funds to al-Shabaab while also causing environmental harm and threatening food security.
Second, we must seize this opportunity to strengthen development, particularly in areas recently liberated from al-Shabaab. Somalis need to see concrete improvements in their lives. For our part, the United States will work with Somali authorities and communities to create jobs, provide health and education services, build capacity, and support peace building and conflict resolution. And today I am announcing the United States is providing an additional $64 million in humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa countries, bringing our emergency assistance since 2011 up to more than 934 million, including more than 211 million for lifesaving programs in Somalia.
Third, we must continue to fight piracy, which is still rampant off Somalia’s shores. The United States supports programs that strengthen the Somali judicial system so it can tackle piracy from onshore. We are considering development projects in coastal communities to create alternatives to piracy for young men. And we support additional international coordination, for example, to the regional anti-piracy prosecutions intelligence coordination center, soon to be launched in the Seychelles. We welcome the increased willingness of many of Somalia’s neighbors to incarcerate pirates. And as the UN helps build judicial and prison capacity in Somalia, it is imperative that more nations step forward to jail and prosecute pirates who have been caught seizing commercial vessels that are flagged, owned, and crewed by citizens of their countries. And we welcome the UK’s initiative to create an international task force to discourage the payment of ransoms to pirates and other groups to eliminate the profit motive and prevent the illicit flow of money and its corrosive effects.
As the security and political situation improves, the U.S. will look for ways to increase our involvement in Somalia, including considering a more permanent diplomatic presence. We will continue to deliver support of all kinds and to help build a broad and durable partnership with both the Somali Government and people.
For decades, the world focused on what we could prevent from happening in Somalia – conflict, famine, terrorism. Now, we are focused on what we can build. I think the opportunity is real, and now we have to work with the TFG as it transitions out of power to build a durable peace for the Somalia people and to support a government that delivers services and offers democracy and prosperity, uniting Somalia after so many years of division and chaos.
Thank you. (Applause.)