14 March 2012
South Africa has established formal diplomatic relations with Somalia, and committed R100-million to help the transitional Somali government build adequate institutions of governance in the troubled Horn of Africa country.
The South African government will work with Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and international partners to ensure that Somalia has institutions of governance that will be sustainable beyond the TFG’s mandate – which should ultimately see that country equipped to govern itself.
South African International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane met with her Somali counterpart, Abdullahi Haji Hassan, in Pretoria on Tuesday. The two signed an agreement for the establishment of diplomatic relations – a move that will coordinate interaction between the two countries.
Addressing journalists after the meeting, Nkoana-Mashabane said the R100-million would provide capacity and institution building, socio-economic support, as well as specified training in key government sectors.
“This move will also afford us an opportunity to closely assess the situation in Somalia and propose interventions in partnership with Somalis and other key players towards the realisation of lasting and meaningful peace in Somalia.”
Nkoana-Mashabane said South Africa stood ready to share its own constitution-making experiences with Somalia.
She added that South Africa’s High Commissioner to Kenya, Ndumiso Ntshinga, would be accredited to Somalia until circumstances allowed for the opening of a South African mission in Mogadishu.
Pretoria currently engages with Somalia through the Somali embassy in Kenya.
“We will also be happy to receive diplomatic representation from Somalia in the near future, which will not only enhance our bilateral relations and outreach to Somalia, but also serve Somali nationals in South Africa,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.
Somalia has been plagued by internal strife for the past decade. Civil war, coupled with a hunger crisis – 750 000 people face imminent starvation, according to UN data – has rendered the country extremely vulnerable, and earned it a place among the top “failed states” in the world.
Situation on the ground ‘stabilising’
Haji Hassan thanked South Africa for its support, and said they could learn a lot from SA’s experience, especially in constitution-making and peace-building.
Asked about the situation on the ground in Mogadishu, and whether the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) had requested military assistance from South Africa, Haji Hassan said they had not, as the situation had stabilised, and that people had started rebuilding their lives. He added that South Africa was already doing a lot to help them.
Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, has seen a huge influx of people fleeing hunger and civil war, making it difficult for the government to provide basic services.
Pretoria has been active in responding to the humanitarian situation in Somalia, offering aid and logistical support for humanitarian efforts by Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries and the international community.
Political solution ‘the only option’
Nkoana-Mashabane said a political solution was the only option to resolving the situation in Somalia, and encouraged all stakeholders who still remained outside of the peace process to participate in the talks to ensure an inclusive Somali-owned process and solution.
“We would like to call on all Somali armed opposition groups, including Al Shabab, to lay down their arms and to join the peace process that has already been embarked upon,” Nkoana-Mashabane said, voicing concern about the continuing violence and loss of life in Somalia and the ongoing piracy [along] the country’s coast.
Nkoana-Mashabane said she was, however, encouraged by the determination of the current Somali leadership to embark on a constitution-making process that would serve as the basis for a new political dispensation that would replace the current Transitional Federal Institutions by August 2012, when the TFG’s mandate expires.
“We believe that the solution to piracy is on land, and that the issue of piracy will only be solved once there is political stability in Somalia. It is necessary that Somali institutions be strengthened to enable them to play their role in the prosecution of [pirates].”
The two ministers also discussed efforts to bring home Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz, South African citizens long held hostage by Somali pirates.