EU set to host talks on Somalia recovery

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The EU hosts a “milestone” international conference on Somalia on Monday aimed at underpinning economic and political recovery after two decades of bloody civil war.

Some 50 high-level delegations from Africa, Europe, the Gulf and elsewhere are expected for the “New Deal in Somalia” event, gathering President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, other Somali leaders, world aid groups and global finance institutions.

“We will not just be managing conflict, on Monday we will be signalling and kick-starting the consolidation of peace and stability in Somalia,” said Alexander Rondos, the EU’s Horn of Africa envoy.

Britain’s ambassador to Somalia Neil Wigan said the conference was “a major milestone” after the country’s remarkable progress over the last year.”

With diplomats hoping to see more than a billion euros in pledges, Wigan said “our combined efforts will maintain momentum and deliver the change that the people of Somalia desperately need.”

In January, Mohamud won formal US recognition of his government for the first time since the 1991 overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre that plunged the country into civil war.

For the past year it has seen a president, government and parliament function without interruption but the fragility of its institutions means it cannot yet be given loans and will have to accept grants.

At stake Monday will be the approval of a New Deal Compact setting out the federal government’s political, security and economic priorities, agreeing a fund to support the programme, and ways of monitoring international support in the future.

High on the current agenda is a Somali campaign to get one million children into school in a country that has one of the world’s lowest enrollment rates — with only four of every ten children in class.

In the 2008-2013 period, the European Union provided 1.2 billion euros in aid to the country — 521 million euros in development cooperation and 697 million euros in the field of security.

The largest slice of that is funding for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), comprising some 17,000 troops and launched in 2007 with UN Security Council approval.

It props up the weak central government in Mogadishu and fights alongside its army, seizing a string of towns from the Islamist Shebab.

But the authorities have been dealt a number of setbacks in recent months, including several deadly Shebab attacks.

Their most brazen recent attack was a suicide commando assault on a fortified UN compound in the centre of Mogadishu in June that killed 11.

And at least 18 people were killed in Mogadishu on September 7 when two blasts rocked a popular restaurant, police said, in attacks quickly claimed by Shebab Islamists.

As well as a military training mission in Somalia, the EU runs an anti-piracy operation off the Somali coast, where attacks on shipping have fallen steadily in the past year.

Mohamud’s government came to power last September after more than a decade of transitional rule.