US withdraws nomination of ambassador to Somalia

Katherine Dhanani, who would have become first envoy to Somalia since 1991, withdraws for personal reasons, US says.

President Obama nominated Dhanani for the post in February [AFP]
President Obama nominated Dhanani for the post in February [AFP]

US President Barack Obama has withdrawn the nomination of the US’ first ambassador to Somalia in 24 years, the White House has said.

The administration confirmed on Monday that Katherine Dhanani, a long-time diplomat with deep experience in African affairs, has turned down the nomination for personal reasons.

“She is withdrawing for personal reasons,” an administration official told AFP news agency.

Dhanani had appeared before the Senate in March to seek confirmation in the post. President Obama nominated her for the post in February, the first since 1991.

“Decades of conflict, famine, and oppression led many to label Somalia a ‘failed state’. Today, Somalis are proving those pessimists wrong,” she told a panel.

Abukar Arman, a former Somalia special envoy to the US and a foreign policy analyst, told Al Jazeera that he believed the decision to withdraw the ambassador’s nomination might be more of a political decision.

“It would be too reckless from the Obama administration’s point of view to open a full-fledged embassy and assign an American ambassador to operate out of Mogadishu knowing that the frontrunner of the Democratic Party [Hillary Clinton] has the Benghazi tragedy hovering over her head,” Arman said.

“Democrats would consider such adventure as a risky business.”

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 the 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 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.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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