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Q&A: UK Minister of State on her visit to Somalia and UK’s role

Storyline:National News

The UK Minister of State at the Foreign Office Harriet Baldwin this past week visited Somalia and held talks with Prime Minister Hassan Khaire among other assignments. Goobjoog FM Chief Editor Ahmedweli Hussein spoke with the Minister on her visit and UK’s role in Somalia.

UK Minister of State at the Foreign Office Harriet Baldwin during an interview with Goobjoog News in Mogadishu October 7, 2018. Photo: Goobjoog News

Q: What did your discussion with the Somali officials focus on and what is the UK’s role in Somalia?

A: I was delighted to visit to Mogadishu today to meet the Prime Minister of Somalia. And as you know the UK is a long term and steadfast friend of the people of Somalia. We have been here for many years supporting the peace and security process and ensuring that there is sufficient humanitarian assistance reaching people through some tough years. And we are here at your side for the future as well working in terms of economic development security transition, police transition and looking forward to being at the side of the Somali people for many years to come.

 There is an ongoing political standoff between the Member states and the Federal Government in the country. Is the UK playing any role to try and bring the both sides together?

What I was able to say in my meeting with the prime minister today as from the United Kingdom we also have these discussions within our countries. So for example for some 300 years there have been discussions about Scotland and whether Scotland should be part of the United Kingdom and whether Scotland should be an independent country. The important thing is that we resolve these issues in the United Kingdom through democracy, through debates, through maybe a referendum or through elections. So it’s very important that the Federal Government of Somalia and the member states discuss among themselves the important roles that all of them will play in the Constitution in in order to have a secure stable and peaceful Somalia.

Somalia is seeking to end a quarter century arms embargo dating back to 1992. At the recent UN General Assembly meeting, Somalia Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad said  and I quote, “When our force has the same fighting arsenal as the enemy, the odds are split.” As Security Council member do you support Somalia on lifting the arms embargo?

Somalia is at an important point and in terms of the transition to a more stable security situation in this country.

There are a number of different ways that we are working and we’re also you’re right to highlight the important role of the United Nations. Last week was the United Nations General Assembly in New York and I was able to chair an international session of all of the very many friends around the world of Somalia. So I think that there is optimism about the progress that has been made particularly on the economic front.

I think there are still challenges in terms of the transition both to the Somali National Army and in terms of policing. But the UK and the international community stand ready to work with the organisations to strengthen them here in Somalia so that we can then tackle the issues like the ones that you raise.

Talks at resolving Somaliland’s secession have remained elusive and the northern region has maintained a position of self-determination. What is the UK’s position on Somaliland’s sovereignty bid?

No the UK does not recognize Somaliland as an independent country; it is a member state of Somalia and what we do encourage though is for the people of Somalia through the political processes and through the discussions about the Constitution to engage with each other to decide for themselves what is the best way to take Somalia forward.

Somalia will soon be marking a year since the tragic October 14 truck bombing which claimed over 500 lives in Mogadishu. Do you think Somalia now has sufficient international support to prevent a recurrence of such catastrophe?

The UK wishes to express its outrage about the attack on Mogadishu which is coming up for its first anniversary. And we stand in solidarity with the people of Somalia. We are working hard both with the Somali police and also with the Somali National Army so that we can have a more peaceful and secure Somalia in the future. And that we can defeat terrorists like the Al-Shabaab terrorists.