Washington - The United States and Somalia on Thursday launched a new era of diplomatic relations, as Washington recognised the African nation's government for the first time since 1991.
“Today is a milestone... It is not the end of the journey, but it is an important milestone towards that end,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said after talks with new Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
“For the first time since 1991, the United States is recognising the government of Somalia,” she said.
Somalia has not had an effective central government since 1991. Two years later, Americans were shocked by scenes of US soldiers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by a mob after Somali militants shot down two Black Hawk helicopters. Eighteen Americans died, and 80 were wounded.
However, a new Somali administration took office last year, ending eight years of transitional rule by a corruption-riddled government.
And in recent months, a 17 000-strong African Union force, fighting alongside government troops and Ethiopian soldiers, finally wrested a string of key towns from the control of Islamist al-Shabaab insurgents.
The US move opens doors to the country, which will also be the focus of a new international conference to be hosted in Britain in May.
“This will build on last year's successful meeting in London to help sustain international support for the progress being made by the Somali government,” a spokesperson for the office of British Prime Minister David Cameron said.
A US official, who asked to remain anonymous, said no official American aid package was unveiled at Thursday's State Department meeting.
However, “the fact that we recognise a government there would allow us to do things through USAID we have not been able to do before”, he said.
“The fact that we recognise them as the legitimate government would allow the World Bank and the IMF to do things that they had not been able to do before.” - Sapa-AFP