US to name first envoy to Somalia in decades

Obama to appoint new ambassador to Mogadishu, 23 years after the US mission in the country closed.

Last updated: 03 Jun 2014 23:37
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
President Obama is expected to name the new ambassador "soon" [AP]

President Barack Obama is set to announce the first American ambassador to Somalia since the civil war erupted more than 20 years ago, according to a US diplomat.

"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 US ambassador to Somalia in more than two decades," Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman told a US think tank on Tuesday.

Sherman would only say the announcement from Obama, who is in Europe, was expected "soon" and confirmed that, initially, the new ambassador would be based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Although the US never formally severed ties, the embassy in Mogadishu was closed in 1991 as Somalia descended into chaos amid a bloody power struggle among brutal clan chiefs.

Dark history

The darkest chapter in ties came in 1993 when the bodies of US soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by a mob after fighters loyal to Mohamed Farah Aideed, who was on US wanted list, shot down two Black Hawk helicopters.

Thousands of Somalis and 18 American soldiers died in the ensuing battle between fighters loyal to the Aideed and US soldiers.

The Somali government that finally took power in August 2012 was the first to be given global recognition since the regime of dictator Siad Barre fell in 1991. The US recognised the new government in January, 2013.

But while the new Somali government controls the capital Mogadishu, large swathes of rural areas are controlled by the al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab rebel group, which wants to impose strict Sharia law in the east African country.

Recent al-Shabab attacks have targeted key areas of the Somali government, including an attack on the parliament last month, in an apparent bid to discredit claims that they are winning the war against the rebel fighters.

In September, al-Shabab carried out its most high-profile attack to date - a daring assault on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall that left at least 67 dead.


Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Lacking cohesive local ground forces to attack in tandem, coalition air strikes will have limited effect, experts say.
Hindu right-wing groups run campaign against what they say is Muslim conspiracy to convert Hindu girls into Islam.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
Muslim caretakers maintain three synagogues in eastern Indian city, which was once home to a thriving Jewish community.
Amid fresh ISIL gains, officials in Anbar province have urged the Iraqi government to request foreign ground troops.