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London Conference Aims to Resuscitate Somalia

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave Somalia's interim government a deadline for action at a London aid conference.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 2/23/2012, 5:13 PM

 Hillary Clinton and Sharif Ahmed
Hillary Clinton and Sharif Ahmed
Reuters

A major conference on the future of Somalia in London on Thursday saw dissent emerge between officials in Washington and Mogadishu.

Somalia has endured more than two decades of civil war and famine. Terrorism and piracy in Somalia extends beyond the war-torn nation's borders and impacts the entire region and critical international trade routes.

Speaking ahead of the conference, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the aim is to agree a series of practical measures aimed at helping Somalia "get on its feet."

"We are realistic," Hague said. "Somalia’s problems cannot be solved in a day, but its people deserve a better future, and our own security requires their country to become more stable."

Hague, who called Somalia the "world's worst failed state" after visiting the country, said the conference presented a "moment of opportunity" to give the nation "a second chance."

Attending leaders are expected to agree money for schools, hospitals and the police.

However, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the mandate of the UN-backed interim government would not be extended.

"The transitional federal government was always meant to be just that —transitional," she said. " It is past time for that transition to occur, and for Somalia to have a stable government. "

Somalia has not had a central government since 1991, but does have a UN-backed Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu. Officials in US and Europe, however, say they have poured hundreds of millions into Somalia to be met with inaction.

Somali TFG president Sheikh Shari Ahmed dismissed Clinton's deadline saying "At every conference it has been said it is the last chance for Somalia."

Ahmed added that "the international community should not always put the blame on Somalia," hinting that he held foreign donors responsible for some of Somalia's woes.

Representatives from many Somali factions are attending the London conference, but the Islamist terror-group al-Shabab was not invited.

Al-Shabab – which recently became a franchise in the al-Qaeda international terror network – controls much of the center and south of Somalia.

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council resolved to broaden the mandate and increase the budget of African Union peace-keepers in Somalia currently combating al-Shabab.