Britain warning at Somalia peace conference

7th May 2013, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron warned on Tuesday that failure to support the rebuilding of Somalia will lead to "terrorism and mass migration", as he opened an international meeting aimed at helping to end more than 20 years of conflict.

Representatives of more than 50 countries and organisations were attending the London conference, which is co-hosted by Cameron and Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

It hopes to boost political stability in the impoverished Horn of Africa country and prevent it sliding back into abject lawlessness.

Opening the conference, Cameron praised improvements in Somalia's security in recent months, but he warned that huge challenges remained in bringing stability to a country that had been without effective government since 1991.

"To anyone who says this isn't a priority or we can't afford to deal with it, I would say that is what we've said in the past and look where it has got us -- terrorism and mass migration," he said.

"These challenges are not just issues for Somalia. They matter to Britain -- and to the whole international community. Why? Because when young minds are poisoned by radicalism and they go on to export terrorism and extremism, the security of the whole world is at stake."

The United Nations, African Union and International Monetary Fund are among the organisations attending.

Britain has also raised eyebrows by inviting Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces an international trial for crimes against humanity.

A British government source said the invitation counted as "essential contact" with Kenyatta, who is due to go on trial at the International Criminal Court in July.

Downing Street said Kenya played "a vital role" in Somalia, because it has nearly 5,000 troops stationed there and it hosts more Somali refugees than any other nation.

Somalia has been battered by conflict since 1991 but a new UN-backed government took power in September, ending more than a decade of transitional rule.

Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab militants were driven out of the Somali capital Mogadishu in August 2011 by African troops, but the Islamists have carried out a series of brutal attacks in recent months.

About 11 people were killed in the city on Sunday when a suicide bomber rammed a car full of explosives into a government convoy carrying officials from Qatar. No one immediately claimed responsibility.

Despite the unrest, Somalia appears to be slowing turning a corner, with businesses reporting growth in activity, although major challenges remain.

Somalia's president urged the international community to pour investment into his country, arguing that his government's progress over the last year had defied sceptics.

"We are here today to begin a four-year process that must begin with considerable investment and support but which I hope will finish with very little," he was to say at the conference.

Mohamud's government remains weak, and large parts of Somalia are still carved up between rival militias.

Pirates operating from the Somali coast are still causing trouble for international shipping companies, although Cameron told the conference that piracy has dropped 80 percent since London hosted the first Somalia conference in February 2012.

A second conference was held in Istanbul four months later.

© 2013 AFP

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