From: U.S. Department of State
Wendy R. Sherman
Under Secretary for Political Affairs
United States Institute of Peace
June 3, 2014
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, it’s really wonderful to be here, and I must say it’s great to see Kristin Lord who’s acting as president – she acts at it quite well. But it’s also a real pleasure for me to be here with three of my Africa mentors – Ambassador George Moose, Ambassador Princeton Lyman, and Ambassador Johnnie Carson, and my current mentor, Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield. I am really privileged to have worked with all of these extraordinary public servants, and very much look forward to their reflections on what we are discussing today, because they are extraordinarily knowledgeable and among the most deft and skilled diplomats I have ever known in my life. So thank you all. I’m honored by your presence here today.
I also – my colleagues were teasing with me about whether the liability insurance was paid up here at USIP. It seems that it’s not just – when I went to Somalia, everything went fine. It was a difficult trip, but extraordinarily wonderful. But it seems I don’t have much success elsewhere. When I was up on Capitol Hill, as you may have read by a David Sanger piece, I managed to rupture my pinkie finger, which will never be the same again, going to give a secure briefing to members of Congress. And then when I was recently in Vienna on Iran negotiations, I sprained my ankle, which is why I am in flat shoes. And so I’m hopeful today will be all about the promise of Somalia and nothing will be fractured or broken in the process. (Laughter.)
My purpose today is to discuss American policy towards Somalia. Within the context of the Administration’s partnership with Africa and U.S. leadership more generally, something the President’s been speaking about of late, some of you may be asking: Why Somalia? Why a speech on Somalia? My answer is that 20 years ago – and I was at the State Department at the time – the United States essentially withdrew from this country. And now we are back working in close collaboration with the international community and bearing fervent hopes, tempered of course by ongoing concerns.
Our approach Somalia is distinctive for the simple reason that Africa today defies generalization. While parts of the continent remain mired in poverty and held back by conflict, seven of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are in Africa. Domestic markets are expanding rapidly in such urban hubs as Cape Town, Addis Ababa, and Lagos. Across the region examples abound of civil society thriving, health care improving, access to education growing, and life expectancy rising.
Under the President’s leadership, U.S. policy in Africa corresponds to this diversity. The African Growth and Opportunity Act promotes free markets, attracts investment, encourages trade, and facilities integration into the global economy. The Feed the Future program harnesses the power of the private sector to help small landholders and farmers learn business skills. The African Women’s Entrepreneurship program is accelerating the growth of women-owned businesses, and the President’s Young African Leaders initiative, one that I was able to join a couple of years ago. My staff said, “You need to go do this early in the morning.” I said, “Really?” I said, “Leave the building? Not go to the morning meetings? Go do this?” I want to tell you, as soon as I was in the room, I never wanted to leave again. The energy, the vibrancy, the vitality, the promise, the possibility was simply extraordinary. This Young African Leaders initiative is helping some of the continent’s most promising young people to fulfill their potential. These measures and much, much more will be on the agenda when in early-August President Obama welcomes nearly 50 African leaders to Washington for a historic summit.
Also under discussion at that time will be the efforts of African nations themselves with support from the United States and other partners how they are responding to an array of security challenges. With African states in the lead, America is backing initiatives to return safely more than 200 girls kidnapped in Nigeria, eradicate the loathsome Lord’s Resistance Army and disarm militias, end fighting, and support peace operations in strife-torn lands across the continent.
Last week in his commencement address at West Point, President Obama said he will ask Congress to create a new, $5 billion counterterrorism partnerships fund that will help build the capacity of our international partners to respond effectively to the terrorist threat. In his remarks, the President emphasized that the nature of this threat has evolved, and our strategy must keep pace with it.
The core of al-Qaida, the force responsible for 9/11, has been weakened. Danger remains, however, because of the emergence of groups with links to al-Qaida that have embraced the same destructive agenda. One such group is al-Shabaab, the Somali-based organization that continues to carry out attacks on innocent civilians both within and beyond Somalia’s borders.
In Somalia, as elsewhere, defeating a terrorist force requires a multi-faceted approach that makes clear not only what we are against, but also what we are for. And that is the subject I want to highlight today.
As members of this audience know, Somalia is both blessed and cursed by geography. Much of its territory is arid and inhospitable for farming and grazing. But the country’s strategic location and natural harbors have long made it a focus of international interest. In the modern era, it drew the attention first of colonial powers and then, after gaining independence, became embroiled in the Cold War chess game between East and West.
In the early 1990s, disaster arrived. Internal conflicts led to the closing of the U.S. and many other foreign embassies, a devastating shortage of food, the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force, the harrowing Battle of Mogadishu, and the dissolution of organized government. Almost overnight, the very word “Somalia” became a synonym for chaos.
During this period, hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee, factories were torn apart and sold as scrap, patriotic monuments were torn down, schools were closed, and gangs of armed thugs roamed the streets.
Calling home, famed Somali writer Nuruddin Farah was warned by his brother not to return. “Forget Somalia,” he was told, “consider it buried, dead.” Wrote Farah: “How full of tragedy is the instant when it dawns on one that one’s country does not exist anymore, either as an idea or as a physical reality.”
Not long ago, at the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya, I met a young twenty year old man. He told me he had spent his entire life in the camp – his entire life. He was born there and he was still there. Think about how narrow an experience that is, especially in this, the so-called age of globalization.
The depth of Somalia’s trauma should bring home to us the distance and the difficulty of the long road back, the precious nature of the opportunity now before us, the magnitude of what has already been achieved, and the staggering amount of hard work still ahead. To be clear, tomorrow, disaster could arrive again. But today, there are tangible reasons for hope.
In a campaign that started in 2011, African Union and government forces liberated the capital and a number of major cities and towns, some of which had been under al-Shabaab’s control for as long as seven years. In 2012, a new provisional constitution was adopted and a parliament sworn in. In September of that year, the legislators chose professor and civic activist Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as President. Meanwhile, a determined effort by governments and the shipping industry put many of Somalia’s pirates out of business. In Mogadishu, real estate prices are on the rise, seaport activity is increasing, once-shuttered businesses are re-opening, and new solar-powered lights have lifted spirits and lightened streets. Returning from overseas, former Somali expatriates are now serving as cabinet ministers and re-establishing themselves as entrepreneurs.
To borrow Achebe’s phrase, in Somalia twenty years ago, all things had fallen apart. But today, the outlook is improving because Somalis themselves have taken on the responsibility for reclaiming what was lost and rebuilding what was destroyed. They are the ones who have assumed the lead.
In response to this welcome trend, the United States in January 2013 recognized Somalia’s Government for the first time in 22 years. And in September international donors pledged over $2 billion in reconstruction aid to implement – excuse me – to implement the Somalia New Deal Compact, which in President Hassan Sheikh’s words, “will lay a strong foundation for building reliable, transparent, and accountable state institutions.”
At the same time, African countries have stepped up by supporting Somali security through AMISOM, the African Union Mission in Somalia. This is the type of robust regional action we have seen more and more – in South Sudan and the Great Lakes, where diplomatic initiatives are African-led; in Nigeria, where the depredations of Boko Haram recently prompted five African leaders to link arms in Paris in a resolute show of solidarity; and in the Central African Republic and other countries where AU – African Union peacekeepers have been deployed.
In Somalia, the national authorities have begun to take charge with help and support of their neighbors. The role of the world community, including the United States, is to encourage and nurture this process, and that is exactly what we are doing. As I speak, American officials are working closely with Somali leaders, civil society representatives, and a variety of international partners to help the nation come together and move ahead.
The reasons for our involvement are straightforward. First, we have an interest in helping all of Africa sustain its economic momentum and lengthen the roster of countries that contribute to stability, prosperity, and peace. Second, a secure and united Somalia would weaken the forces of extremism and terror that feed off one another and that threaten citizens in almost every country, including the United States. Third, an increasingly stable Somalia would enable two million refugees and internally displaced persons to begin returning to their homes, thus fueling growth domestically and easing political pressures in neighboring lands. Fourth, all maritime nations will benefit if the recent decline in piracy becomes permanent. Fifth, a stable and economically viable Somalia would reduce the intense strain put on Africa’s peacekeeping resources, thus making it easier over time for the region to respond to crises elsewhere.
And finally, there is a more personal element. Some 130,000 Americans are of Somali heritage, and of these many are deeply committed to the recovery and prosperity of their homeland. They show this commitment by advocating for Somalia and by sending money back to their loved ones. Today, an estimated one-third of the country’s total income is derived from remittances – one-third of the total income of the country. This reminds us how bleak the economic picture in Somalia remains. An estimated three million citizens lack secure supplies of food and 860,000 are in need of emergency help. One baby in ten dies at birth and, of the survivors, one in seven is severely malnourished. Of the adults, fewer than half are literate.
For too long, the people of Somalia have suffered from clan-based violence and civil strife. For too long, they have been scattered and unable to establish roots. Now is the best time, the best chance in a quarter century for them to realize the promise that accompanied their nation’s independence. In that quest, the United States is right where it should be: on Somalia’s side. And as we support the country’s progress, our strategy is centered on three key elements: security, governance, and development.
In our view, these topics are not separate, but reinforcing. Development is harder in a climate of fear and so is effective governance. Terrorism both generates anarchy and thrives within it. There is no direct correlation between poverty and extremism, but people engaged in building strong communities are usually too busy to hate. And in Somalia, hate is another name for al-Shabaab.
Al-Shabaab originated less than a decade ago as a militant youth group opposed to any effort to move Somalia toward stability and democracy. Its obstruction of humanitarian aid deliveries deepened the horror of a famine that, between 2010 and 2012, claimed more than a quarter million lives. As Somalis have rejected al-Shabaab’s radical ideas, the group has sought notoriety beyond the country’s borders – orchestrating a bombing that killed 74 soccer fans in Kampala and the murder of 67 men and women at a shopping mall, Westgate, in Nairobi.
The job of degrading and defeating al-Shabaab belongs jointly to the Somali National Army and AMISOM, with support from the United States and other international partners. Over the past three years, these forces made impressive gains in driving al-Shabaab from its strongholds in Mogadishu and numerous towns in south and central Somalia. These victories caused a shift in momentum that must now be sustained.
But as daily headlines attest, al-Shabaab is still a potent threat. It continues to target government officials and humanitarian staff and to hinder the provision of basic services. Last month it carried out bombings in Mogadishu and Baidoa, and just a week ago Saturday launched a multipronged attack on the nation’s parliament, a strike that failed due to the efforts of AMISOM and Somali forces.
Our strategy for helping Somalia defend itself begins with our firm support for AMISOM’s stabilizing role. Last year we endorsed wholeheartedly a UN Security Council decision to enlarge the mission by more than 4,000 troops, thus enabling it and the Somali Army to resume offensive operations. Overall, since 2007 we have contributed more than half a billion dollars in training, equipment, and logistical support. The many African countries that participated in the mission deserve enormous credit. It is a long and wonderful list, and Somali leaders are deeply appreciative of the sacrifices they have made. The UN also plays a central role in backing AMISOM, but every stakeholder agrees that the mission cannot continue indefinitely. Our shared goal is to help Somalia develop more capable security forces of its own.
To that end, the United States is assisting the Somali National Army. In recent years, the State Department has obligated more than $170 million to help recruit and train forces that will be able to protect the country’s institutions and citizens, operate under civilian control, fairly represent Somalia’s population, and respect human rights and international law. In this connection, I note that the army recently approved a code of conduct that prohibits employing soldiers under the age of 18. I note as well that some 1,500 women are now members of that force.
As one element of our support, a small contingent of U.S. military personnel – including some special operations forces – have been present in parts of Somalia for several years. In the past, their activities focused primarily on information sharing and advising AMISOM in its efforts to counter the threat from al-Qaida and al-Shabaab. Today these personnel continue that mission but have also begun to work with the Somali National Army. In addition, last fall the Department of Defense established a small team in Mogadishu to coordinate with related efforts by the international community to help AMISOM and Somali forces.
The aid we provide includes training support for the Somali advanced infantry company, also known as “Danab” – the Lightning Force. This is a 150-person unit that we believe can become a source of future leadership for the entire army. I know from my own conversations with Somali leaders that it makes a difference to the army’s morale that the United States cares enough to assist them, and I know for a fact that there is no better source of instruction for any armed force than the U.S. military.
Additionally, as President Obama noted in his speech, our partnerships do not altogether eliminate the need for direct action to protect American lives. From time to time the U.S. military has conducted such action in Somalia against a limited number of targets, who, based on information about their current and historical activities, have been determined to be part of al-Qaida. And in the future, we may take action against threats that pose a continuing imminent threat to U.S. persons. These strikes will be conducted under the highest operational standards, including the requirement of near certainty that civilians will not be injured or killed by our actions. The goal of our military assistance to Somalia is to enhance the country’s security, and by so doing contribute to its political and economic development. The campaign against al-Shabaab is an essential part of Somalia’s struggle to recover. Equally critical, however, is progress in establishing governing institutions that are capable and credible. The good news is that Somalis have a clear idea of what they would like to achieve. This is laid out in their Vision 2016 document and in the New Deal Compact developed jointly with the international community.
Somalia now has an interim parliament, a president, and a prime minister, and a roadmap calling for a permanent constitution and national elections. Despite this, it is true that its federal governing institutions remain in their infancy. This is all quite new. Virtually every component of public administration must be rebuilt. That is why the United States is furnishing assistance to the Somali parliament and to key ministries for the purpose of professionalizing operations and training personnel, why AMISOM recently conducted an executive leadership and management course for 80 senior civil servants, and why the UN has established a strong political presence in Somalia.
Since the United States recognized the new government, we have given more than $315 million in bilateral aid. Our contributions are designed to strengthen both the public and private sectors, create jobs, increase access to modern technology, and improve the climate for key industries such as agriculture, livestock, and energy. USAID is working to increase opportunities for women and it has rehabilitated markets in 16 towns, turning unsanitary eyesores into clean, comfortable, and orderly commercial stalls. We are also collaborating with our partners to prevent the resurgence of polio and to reinvigorate the justice sector, including the Somali national police and courts.
In addition, our assistance is helping to equip 160,000 young Somalis with education and skills they will need to participate in the workforce. This is vital because, like many African countries, Somalia is remarkably young. The median age is less than half that of the United States. We are at 35 years of age; Somalia’s median is 17. Because the median age is less than half that of the United States, this creates an imperative for the nation’s leaders that can be understood by any parent – how to channel youthful energy in a positive direction.
Make no mistake, the list of challenges Somalia must address is long. As in any place where government institutions are underdeveloped, crime and corruption are severe problems. Political infighting and clan disputes have caused the country to lag behind its own timetable for reform. There’s also a pressing requirement for transparency and financial management so the government can earn trust both domestically and globally. The recent appointment of a financial governance committee and also of central bank officials are significant and important first steps.
Another priority is to ensure that when al-Shabaab is pushed out of an area, it is replaced by a governing presence that can protect citizens and instill optimism. This task is complicated by the fact that when local populations return to such areas, they often find that terrorists have stripped them of infrastructure, food, and supplies. The United States is supporting quick impact projects in these areas. But although external assistance is essential, so is inclusive government and local participation in setting priorities. If the Somali nation is to come together, the newly liberated towns must be part of it, not islands unto themselves.
Yet a further challenge to Somalia’s development is posed by its regional fragmentation. Although the country’s population is less ethnically diverse than many in Africa, its people still possess strong local affinities and clan loyalties. Somaliland in the north, for example, sought to distance itself from the tumult elsewhere by establishing its own governing structures. Neighboring Puntland also has a high degree of autonomy. Moving forward, leaders must preserve the strengths of these regional administrations while also reconciling them with Somalia’s national identity.
The appropriate means for accomplishing this include dialogue, the ballot box, and the judicial process. The United States believes that a stable federal Somalia with a credible national government in Mogadishu is in the best interest of all Somalis, but to achieve this, there must be a willingness to compromise on every side. It is critical that issues of authority and jurisdiction be settled because investors will be reluctant to make commitments if there is confusion about who is in charge. One possible model is the method by which an agreement was reached last year between the national government and the interim administration in Jubaland. This pact delineates federal and state authorities and provides a framework for managing resources and controlling revenue.
The United States will remain actively engaged with both national and regional leaders to strengthen institutions and promote cooperation on every level. Looking ahead, the pivotal test for Somalia will not be procuring more assistance from the world community or even defeating al-Shabaab. The truly defining test will be an internal one. Somalis have to decide whether they want to exist as disparate clans isolated from the world and in conflict with one another, or as a united country with all the attributes, benefits, and responsibilities that such unity brings. None of us can make that choice for Somalia.
But Somalis should know if they choose to continue to come together, they will have enthusiastic and substantial international support. Currently, America’s diplomatic team in Somalia is led by U.S. Special Representative Jim – James McAnulty. I said Jim because that’s what I think of him as – an ambassador equivalent based in Nairobi, who along with other U.S. personnel travels back and forth frequently to Somalia. The United States has not had a formal ambassador to Mogadishu since we closed our mission on January 5th, 1991. I can tell you today that this will be changing. As a reflection both of our deepening relationship with the country and of our faith that better times are ahead, the President will propose the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia in more than two decades. We indeed look forward to the day when both nations have full-fledged diplomatic missions in the capital of the other.
I said earlier that U.S. policy towards Somalia was based not solely on what we are against, but more importantly, what we are for. So in closing, let me just say that America is for a Somalia where children are born healthy and immunized against deadly disease; a Somalia where families are able to eat more than a single meal each day and where the water they drink won’t harm them; a Somalia where every boy and girl has access to an education; a Somalia where women and men are able to walk without fear; and where citizens have faith in their government because freedom has meaning and the rights of all are respected.
In his memoir, Nuruddin Farah wrote of the high value Somalis put on having a home, a place that, in his words, “affords a greater sense of privacy, of self-honor, and dignity.” Friends and colleagues, the path ahead remains rocky and uphill, but let us all have faith that the day will arrive when the people of Somalia are able to fully reclaim their home and to know once again the honor and dignity that comes with that sense of ownership.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR CARSON: Ambassador Sherman, let me be the first to congratulate you on a excellent speech on Somalia, and also for what appears to be the announcement of a new U.S. ambassador to that country for the first time in two decades.
I’ll start by asking one or two questions but quickly move to the audience. In the last several days, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization has issued a report that states that Somalia is once again on the threshold of a major famine. My question is: How serious do you think this is likely to be? What is the U.S. doing right now to avert it? And would such a famine, if it gets out of control, undermine some of the confidence in the current government and undermine some of the stability in Somalia that has been achieved?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: A very simple question from Ambassador Carson. (Laughter.)
Of course we are concerned, and we have been concerned forever about famine in Somalia because, as I said, there is a great deal of Somalia that is arid – that food cannot be grown, and food security is enormously important. And in places, as I mentioned in the speech, where al-Shabaab has been, often whatever food was available has been stolen, taken, consumed, gone. The United States gives a fair amount of aid to Somalia, is looking at ways that we can further address the food security issues. Feed the Future program is very active in Somalia both in terms of funds and helping to build capacity, which is critical, because we all know that the real solution is a growing economy where you can’t grow food; you can import food. And as I said, agriculture is one of the areas in which we are putting a lot of our efforts to grow that sector and to grow that capacity.
There is no doubt that a true famine will further increase the insecurity of Somalia, and so the United States, which is the single largest contributor to the World Food Program, hopes that all of those appeals are met by the international community, and we are doing whatever we can to ensure that the international community responds and responds to FAO’s recent report, and that we help in whatever way we can to meet this demand. It is quite crucial.
And it is indeed, I think – if I make no other point in the remarks today, it is that all of these elements are integrated. I think that is what the President was trying to convey in his speech at West Point, which is when you have situations of a country like Somalia which is plagued by so much that is difficult and has been really nonexistent for two decades, one has to work in every sector in every way to deal with governance, to deal with terrorism, to deal with security, to deal with political development. And it is a long and complicated and difficult process, but what I found most extraordinary in my visit to Somalia was it has gotten underway, it is happening – with great difficulty, two steps forward and maybe three steps backwards from time to time, but it is proceeding forward, and it is no easy task.
AMBASSADOR CARSON: Ambassador Sherman, before we go to the audience, I’d like to raise a regional question and ask: What has been the impact of the Kenyan decision to crack down on illegal Somalis in that country, the impact in Kenya and the impact in Somalia?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: First I want to say that Kenya has welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees from Somalia. I’ve been to Dadaab; I’m sure many of the people in this audience have been. I know you have, Ambassador Carson. And none of us would want to be that 20-year-old who has only known a refugee camp. But I think we all have to be grateful for what Kenya has done to welcome refugees into Kenya and to provide – try to provide a home until there can be a full repatriation to Somalia on a voluntary basis.
We of course would urge Kenya to continue its long history of treating refugees with dignity, within the rule of law, and to ensure their security. And the Kenyan police are a very, in many ways, sophisticated force. We rely on them in our Embassy in Nairobi for security and they are always there to help. And we would urge that the Kenyans look at any incident that has come to fore – we’ve seen all of these reports – take it seriously as they have done in the past, and try to ensure that refugees are given the most dignity possible. No one wants to be a refugee. No one chooses to be one.
AMBASSADOR CARSON: Thank you. We’re going to move to the audience, and we do have a very tight window. Questions should be short and specific, not long commentary. One question here, sir. You’ve had your hand up. Identify yourself, please.
QUESTION: Mark Tavlarides with the Podesta Group. The President’s launched a go-to-school initiative to put a million kids in school. Just wondering if you could just tell us a little bit about the importance the U.S. attaches to that initiative and what we’re doing to help them in that area.
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think education is absolutely critical. We think access to education is critical; we have supported educational support as part of our programming through USAID, and I think that we all know everywhere in the world education is critical for the development of a country. I think what horrified everyone about what happened to the schoolgirls in Nigeria – and I think most of you in this audience know that Boko Haram has been killing and kidnapping people for some time and the world had not quite caught on to what was happening, and painfully and horrifically it took over 200 schoolgirls being kidnapped for the world to understand the risks and what was occurring in northern Nigeria. And I think what horrified all of us who have children is to imagine that the simple act of going to school – the simple act of going to school, of a girl getting an education – would mean that she should be kidnapped and in essence put into slavery is horrifying. And so education is critical for every country across the continent, and obviously in Somalia very much so.
QUESTION: Morning. My name is Mohamed Ali, Somali American Peace Council. It was a beautiful speech. We appreciate what you did and what my new country is doing for Somalia.
My question is: Why don’t we empower Somali Americans like our organization and others all over the country, because we have good projects and we are willing to go back and help the country? For instance, we have a project called Sports for Peace, and the idea is to counterbalance the terrorists. As an ex-basketball coach myself when I was a teenager back home, I’m planning to go back this summer and trying to help. We get the approval by the IRS, the tax exempt, but the USAID rules working the – like our project, but the red tape of the government is still there. So if there’s way you can empower us, maybe even waive those red tapes so we can go and help Somalia? Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, I think it’s terrific that you have an organization that is working in Somalia and working with Somalis; that as an expatriate, folks have come together to see what they can do. I know that every nongovernmental organization thinks there’s too much U.S. red tape. I think that’s a given. But we have that red tape for transparency, for good governance; for ensuring how things are happening, make sure it fits into an integral program, supports the objectives of the Somali Government. So I apologize for the red tape, but it is there for a reason, and I’m sure that we’re doing whatever we can.
But I want to say that it takes all of us in whatever role we’re in – the private sector – that means companies, investors – non-governmental organizations that do their own philanthropy, as well as governments like the United States to support the primary leader, which is the Somalis themselves.
QUESTION: Thank you, Under Secretary Sherman, for a very substantive presentation. My question goes to the issue of timing. I’m Bernadette Paolo from the Africa Society. We’ve seen recently that African governments – their response to terrorism has either been ineffective or ill-timed, and waiting for the African Union and the United Nations often – that delay causes additional problems. So with the African heads of state summit coming, do you think it’s possible for preventative mechanisms to be put in place, or a security response – an early response so that we don’t have this lag time, and better cooperation and coordination among the international community and African countries? Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well first of all, let me say I think things have come a very long way from where they once were. There is capacity in Africa that has never existed before, and I tried to give some examples where you have African-led regional organizations that have stepped up – whether that was in Mali; whether that is in CAR; whether that is in Sudan, South Sudan; in Somalia – really throughout five heads of state. I was in Paris for the Nigerian summit – five heads of states joining arms for border security and for trying to take on a task collectively and bring each of their strengths to the table.
So I think there’s been enormous progress. And what our job should be is to nurture the development of those regional organizations to develop the capacity of Africa themselves. There have been a lot of creative ideas about that, about how to build an African force that would be permanent on the continent and able to respond quickly to crises. And I think all of these ideas I’m sure will be in discussion at sessions at the Africa summit. But I think the most important thing we can do is build the capacity of Africans themselves, because they are right there and then can do the job, as opposed to wait for a Security Council resolution getting troops to come. All of that takes time and there’s no way to cut that time short, because people do it on a voluntary basis – troop-contributing countries.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, Ambassador Sherman. My name is Cindy Waite) and I’m a Charles B. Rangel fellow, and will be entering the Foreign Service in the summer of 2016.
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Congratulations.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. Thank you again for your remarks. And I’m really interested – you made a huge announcement that the President will propose the first ambassador in over 20 years to Somalia. I’m interested —
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: You interested? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I’m sorry. I’m interested if you could just say a few remarks to those of us who will be entering the diplomatic corps and are so excited to serve worldwide, what it might look like in a few years – I know you can’t tell the future, but what that region – what it might look like to serve there, how many people are currently serving there, what a small embassy would look like in the beginning stages, et cetera. Thank you so much.
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Probably either Ambassador Carson or Assistant Secretary Greenfield can tell you how many people are serving there. I don’t know. Do either of you know off the top of your head how many people serve in Africa?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: (Off-mike.)
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Yeah. And Somalia?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Nigeria?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, Somalia we don’t have a permanent presence.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: (Off-mike.)
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Gosh, we have thousands of people serving in Africa.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: (Off-mike.)
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: So – did you hear? Thirty-seven – because I don’t know – Linda doesn’t have a microphone on. Thirty-seven hundred serving overseas. And Assistant Secretary Greenfield was also the director general of the State Department, so she knows about personnel. And about a dozen in Nairobi who serve our efforts in Somalia, as well as people who come in and out on what we call TDY, which you will come to understand means when people from Washington and elsewhere come to serve a particular mission for a period of time.
I think serving in Africa is a tremendously exciting proposition. As I said, seven of the 10 largest and fastest growing economies – fastest growing, not largest – but fastest growing economies are in Africa. The youth population in Africa is both a challenge, but it also is energy that beats the band. I think we had something like – I forget – 500 slots and 50,000 people, young people apply by email to have one of those Young African Leader Initiative slots. So it is filled with energy and excitement and possibility, also is filled with conflict and danger and difficulty and painstaking and sometimes way-too-slow progress. But that is life as we all know it. So congratulations, you’ve got a great future ahead of you.
AMBASSADOR CARSON: The gentleman in the back on the left.
QUESTION: My name is Stephen Druhot. I’m a business person. I do business both in Somaliland and in Somalia. And you mentioned, Ambassador Carson, the impending possibility of a famine in that area again. Currently, the United States does have a pre-positioning warehouse in Djibouti and they have funding in the farm bill. And if this is going to happen, which is being predicted to happen, you could easily begin to move the cargo out of Djibouti towards Mogadishu at the same time you move the cargo from the United States into Djibouti because neither will be able to quell the impending disaster. It’s a solution, not a question. (Laughter.)
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, thank you very much for your expertise, and thank you for the work that you do. As I said, the private sector is a critical partner, so thank you for what you do in Somaliland and Somalia as a whole. Thank you.
QUESTION: Hi, I’m Dana Hughes from ABC News. I have two questions. One, if you could give any kind of a timeline for when the President plans to name this ambassador, and will that ambassador be part of the team in Nairobi?
The second question I have is: When Shabaab fell in Kismayo and Mogadishu, intelligence analysts had a real fear that they would simply spread out. With the attacks in Westgate and the continued attacks in Kenya, the attacks in Djibouti, has that fear been realized? And how does that influence U.S. security policy not just in Somalia but in the region as a whole? Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: So for your – in answer to your first question, when will the U.S. ambassador be named, I will give you government speak: Soon. (Laughter.) And that ambassador will begin working out of Nairobi. We have an office in Mogadishu in the airport compound, and I would hope that in the years ahead, as I said, that we will see a full presence both in Somalia and by the Somalis here in Washington. It’ll take some time, but we take this in a step-by-step approach.
Secondly, in terms of al-Shabaab, yes, many analysts were concerned that as they were pushed out of not only Kismayo and Mogadishu but in villages, they would bleed into the community and then just wait for the next opportunity or go someplace else, which they clearly have done. It’s why this has to be a regional approach. Terror is not about a location. It is about really a regional response that is not just country specific, because it has to do with the security of borders, it has to do with economic development, it has to with growth, it has to do with basic security and government services. There’s a whole cavalcade of integrated efforts that have to go forward to put terror on its back foot for the long term and allow the good forces of people being able to live their daily lives to come forward.
There has been a step taken in the right direction – more than one step – by Somalis themselves. But as I’ve said, this is still an uphill struggle, and I cannot tell you that tomorrow, the day after I’ve given this speech, some awful event will not happen, because al-Shabaab is clearly still present not only in Somalia but in the neighboring countries. So this is an effort that we are taking on collectively in support not only of the Somalis but of the Kenyans, the Djiboutians, and everyone else in the region and in the continent.
AMBASSADOR CARSON: Ambassador Sherman, we have a hard stop at —
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Yes, we do.
AMBASSADOR CERSON: — 12 o’clock and we have reached that moment. I, on behalf of the acting president of USIP, on behalf of the institution itself , want to thank you enormously for coming here this morning to talk about Somalia and Africa. It has been a pleasure to listen to you and to hear the progress that has been made in our policy in that country. And it’s a pleasure to see you again as well.
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Thank you all very much, and do whatever you can – every single one of you in this audience – to support the Somalis in the journey they are taking themselves and the progress they have made and all of the progress that must be yet to come. I thank you all for however you can contribute to that. Your government can do only so much. It really will take everyone in support of the Somali Government for them to do what they are trying to do for themselves. Thank you very much.
AMBASSADOR CARSON: Thank you. (Applause.)
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