Western powers are in early talks on writing off Somalia’s debt, a big shift for a country that was long branded a failed state and has with help scored successes against al Qaeda-linked rebels and piracy. Just two years ago, Islamist militants and African peacekeepers fought daily street battles in Mogadishu.
Now the city is rid of insurgents, though still vulnerable to attack, and the government’s focus is on bolstering security, rooting out corruption and imposing the rule of law. Foreign diplomats point to a determination to re-enter the international fold under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, elected last year in the country’s first vote for decades.
This is welcome progress for regional states whose economies have been rattled by their neighbor’s instability and for Western capitals which long worried Somalia provides a base for militant Islam to flourish unchecked.
Mohamud had made it clear Somalia should not be seen as a basket case and wants to change donors’ attitudes, envoys said. Discussion about debts suggest that change is happening. Somalia’s arrears stood at around $2.2 billion in 2010, World Bank data showed, peanuts in international terms but daunting when domestic revenues are forecast at $54 million in 2013….
Washington, London and Brussels are among those which have formally recognized the government for the first time since civil war erupted in 1991….
Security worries persist. Britain warned this week of imminent attacks in Mogadishu and al Shabaab militants have claimed several suicide bombings in past months, more than two years after they were driven out of the capital. Their fighters still control swathes of the countryside, but an African Union force has forced them out of most cities and the Islamist group is now at its weakest ebb in the six years since it emerged amid anarchy as a fighting force.
The 17,600-strong African force includes troops from Uganda, Burundi and Kenya. Nairobi is worried by a surge in bombings, kidnappings and grenade attacks on its soil that it blames on the Somali militants and their sympathizers.
But… [i]n a country divided along clan faultlines, the government’s relationship with the regions is delicate and often uneasy under a fledgling federal system.
Strips of Somalia’s coast remain infested with pirates, even if they stage fewer successful attacks now due to the greater use of armed guards, increasingly aggressive naval action and slight improvements in law and order onshore.”The other parts of the country are dark,” said Hashi. “Mogadishu, which is the heart of Somalia, has recovered but the other regions, the limbs, are still paralyzed.”
A political newcomer, Mohamud’s election was hailed by many as a vote for change, but seven months on some grumble. “He promised to improve security but it has not yet happened,” said shopkeeper Halima Bile from Baidoa, which relies on foreign rather than local forces for protection from the rebels. “I don’t know when Somalia will become a real country.”….
Somalia strives to shake off “failed state” tag