Remarks With Somali Transitional Federal Government President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Nairobi, Kenya
August 6, 2009

SECRETARY CLINTON: President Sheikh Sharif and I have just concluded a very thorough and productive discussion – thank you – about the challenges facing his country and the efforts of the international community to support the Transitional Federal Government as it stands up for the people of Somalia and against the threat of violent extremism.

The United States pledges our continued support for President Sheikh Sharif’s government. And we have joined IGAD-the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the African Union, in endorsing the Somali-led Djibouti peace process.

Can we turn the lights on? Is that all right? (Laughter.) We keep turning them off. Thank you, that helps. Thank you.

I want to reiterate our support for that process today. I conveyed to President Sheikh Sharif very strong support that President Obama and I have both for the peace process and for his government. We believe that his government is the best hope we’ve had in quite some time for a return to stability and the possibility of progress in Somalia. A strengthened Transitional Federal Government would have positive consequences not just for Somalia, but for the region and the wider global community. It would contribute to greater regional stability and start to alleviate the growing refugee crisis afflicting Somalia’s neighbors, especially Kenya, which is hosting nearly 300,000 Somali refugees today.

President Sheikh Sharif’s government has taken up the fight on behalf of the Somali people against al-Shabaab, a terrorist group with links to al-Qaida and other foreign militant networks. Al-Shabaab and its allies lack regard for human rights, for women’s rights, for education, and healthcare, and the progress of the Somali people. They see Somalia as a future haven for global terrorism. Just this week in Australia, we have been reminded that there are those who would use Somalia as a training ground for attacks around the world.

No one knows better than the president the challenges facing Somalia and his people. Millions of Somalis – roughly 40 percent of the population – are in need of humanitarian aid as they confront persistent conflict, prolonged drought, and periodic disease outbreaks. And the TFG’s institutions, including the security sector, need not only reform but significant financial support, so that the government can make real progress in delivering services for the Somali people. The United States and the international community must serve as an active partner in helping the TFG and the people of Somalia confront and ultimately move beyond the conflict and poverty that have gripped their country.

The African Union Mission in Somalia is playing an instrumental role in providing security and creating the space for TFG to operate in, and we’re grateful for the bravery and commitment of the AMISOM troops from Uganda and Burundi. The United States is proud to offer financial support – nearly $150 million over the past two years, and additional funds in the coming months. We will also continue to provide equipment and training to the TFG as well as humanitarian assistance to the Somali people where delivery is feasible and effective.

We are asking other states in the region, particularly Arab states, to back the Djibouti process and the African Union, and to follow through on pledges of financial support. In addition, it is long past time for Eritrea to cease and desist its support for al-Shabaab and to start being a productive, rather than a destabilizing, neighbor.

I believe that the United States, Kenya, the entire region, and the global community have a stake in the success of President Sheikh Sharif’s government. I particularly appreciated Sheikh Sharif’s asking for help in returning children to school, in medical supplies to reopen hospitals, in giving the people of Somalia who have suffered so much the services that they deserve. I look forward to continuing consultations with the president and to supporting the people of Somalia through this difficult time. Thank you very much.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) Shabaab to Americans? How big a threat a threat is the Shabaab to Americans here in Kenya, where there’s this long and not-so-well guarded border with Somalia, and also in the United States?

And then on the Eritrea subject, there’s been many warnings by American officials to Eritrea to cease and desist their support for the Shabaab. They have not changed their position. When is some action going to be taken?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me answer the first question, and perhaps the president would want to add to that.

The United States takes very seriously the threat that al-Shabaab poses, first and foremost, to the people of Somalia, but also to people in the region such as here in Kenya. Our information is that al-Shabaab not only uses foreign fighters and foreign money, but foreign ideas in its attack on the people of Somalia. And there is also no doubt that al-Shabaab wants to obtain control over Somalia to use it as a base from which to influence and even infiltrate surrounding countries and launch attacks against countries far and near. And I think terrorists anywhere are threats to people everywhere. Certainly, if al-Shabaab were to obtain a haven in Somalia which could then attract al-Qaida and other terrorist actors, it would be a threat to the United States.

With respect to Eritrea, we are making it very clear that their actions are unacceptable. Their interference with the rights of the Somali people to determine their own future are the height of misplaced efforts and funding, and we intend to take action if they do not cease.

PRESIDENT SHEIKH SHARIF: (Via interpreter) I want to add a few points about Eritrea. We think that solving a problem with another problem is not right, and this is what Eritrea is doing. Because Eritrea is having problems with one of its neighbors, it is not right to solve this problem through Somalia. As you may know, in the African Union summit, all African leaders agreed that sanctions should be placed on Eritrea. That is because Eritrea is insisting on continuing its activities that are not helpful to the entire Horn of Africa. And the place that this (inaudible) is not at a point where we can keep quiet about it. We believe they still have an opportunity to correct this – their methods.

MODERATOR: Next question (inaudible).

QUESTION: My question is to Ms. Clinton, the Secretary of State of United States. President Obama, he has mentioned in Ghana last month that the issue of Somalia is no longer African, it’s global. So on your visit here to – and your meeting with President Sheikh Sharif has been now is the highest-ranking the United States had ever had with Somali leader. So are there any new plans or programs towards Somalia in the short term? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you know, we have been the principal financial backer of AMISOM and we will continue to do so. In addition to the military and security support that we are providing and working with others to provide to the TFG, we intend to respond to President Sheikh Sharif’s request for assistance to serve the needs of the Somali people.

We also commended President Sheikh Sharif and his cabinet for hiring Price Waterhouse to analyze and monitor funding that goes into the TFG. We intend to ask other countries, as I said, particularly in the Arab world and in the Somali Contact Group, to fulfill the obligations that they have made to the TFG and the Somali people. The TFG needs help with food, with medical supplies, with unemployment – namely, jobs for people, with infrastructure like roads, with refugees and internally displaced people. And as they demonstrate their capacity to stabilize the country, we need to be there to help them deliver the results of stability to the people of Somalia who have suffered for so long.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) The question is if, because of a change in administration, what is the policy of the new Administration that would be different from the previous administration?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, our support for Somalia is bipartisan. There was support before, there is support now. But I think it is fair to say that President Obama and I want to expand and extend our support for the Transitional Federal Government in the ways that I have already mentioned. Very early in the Administration, I made the decision, which the President supported, to accelerate and provide aid to the TFG when it was in a very difficult position. And we are very pleased that under President Sheikh Sharif’s leadership the TFG is in a much stronger position now.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, can you rule out another U.S. military intervention in Somalia? And then, because my dowry question was asked already earlier at the town hall, I’m wondering if, looking ahead, you could tell us what you plan to tell President Zuma when you see him on Saturday about dealing with Zimbabwe. Successive administrations have pressed and pressed and never gotten anywhere with the South Africans. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: The United States is supporting the African Union’s commitment through AMISOM. We believe that is exactly the right approach to take. And we are supporting the training and equipping of the TFG forces, which is, after all, in the front of this fight to regain control of Somalia away from the violent extremists.

And I do intend to speak not only with President Zuma but with other members of his government, particularly the foreign minister, about what more South Africa believes can be done to strengthen the reform movement inside Zimbabwe, alleviate the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe, and try to use its influence to mitigate against the negative effects of the continuing presidency of President Mugabe.

Thank you.

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PRN: 2009/T11-8