John Kerry In Historic Visit To Somalia

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John Kerry In Historic Visit To Somalia US Secretary of State John Kerry has paid a surprise visit Somalia – the first ever by a senior US government official.

The trip from the former Democratic presidential candidate was to give a show of solidarity to the African nation, which is fighting a threat from al Qaeda militants and trying to end decades of war in the country.

Mr Kerry was greeted on his arrival at Mogadishu airport by Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, with whom he attended a series of planned meetings.

US Secretary of State John Kerry talks with a group of young Somali refugees at the Dadaab Camp by video, at The United Nations High Commission for Refugees
John Kerry held talks on counter-terrorism with Kenya

He said: “This is a very important moment for Somalia.

“Great progress has been made, and you have all contributed to that progress… most importantly, obviously, the need to provide your citizens with the safety and security that they want and need.

Play video “Timeline: al Shabaab Attacks”
Video: Timeline: al Shabaab Attacks
“We very much look forward to working with you building credible elections, towards the building of a national army and towards the ability of Somalia to serve as a model for its ability to rebuild and reclaim its own future.”

The trip was undertaken amid great secrecy, with the Somali government only finding out about it the day before it happened.

The meetings were held at the airport,  indicating how dangerous and unstable the country remains.

Top of the agenda was expected to be the fight against al Shabaab, the Somali militants who aligned themselves with al Qaeda and carried out numerous attacks within the country and across the border in Kenya.

A combination of a fightback from African forces and US drone strikes has crippled the organisation’s leadership in recent years, but it has also forced the militants into more daring attacks on Somalia’s neighbours.

Play video “Kenya Gunman Was Official’s Son”
Video: Kenya Gunman Was Official’s Son
The terrorist group carried out last month’s massacre at Kenya’s Garissa University College which killed 148 people, mostly students.

Somalia has been without a truly functioning, nationwide government for some 25 years following the ousting of dictator Siad Barre from power in 1991.

Opposing warlords quickly turned on one another as they vied for power, plunging the country into anarchy from which it has yet to fully recover.

America’s own nose was bloodied when it sent troops there on a peacekeeping mission in 1992 to help with famine relief.

They were forced to leave, humiliated, two years later after the “Black Hawk Down” disaster when two US helicopters were shot down by Somali militiamen.

Play video “Continuing Threat From Al Shabaab”
Video: Continuing Threat From Al Shabaab
Eighteen US servicemen were killed in the crash and subsequent rescue attempt, with images being shown of the bodies of US soldiers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. The disaster was turned into a Hollywood film.

Militias, Islamist extremist groups and the military vied for power in the country before the impetus turned against al Shabaab earlier this decade. The US is hoping the present government is taking steps further down the road towards democracy.

Barack Obama’s administration has given hundreds of millions of dollars to support and build up the army and is working with the Somali president to make the government broader and more representative of the people.

If Somalia can do that, the US has suggested it could reopen its embassy there before Mr Obama leaves office.

The visit comes after Mr Kerry held talks on counter-terrorism and refugees with Kenya’s government. SOURCE SKYNEWS  BY BASHIR HASHI YUSSUF

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