On Wednesday, the United States announced the reopening of its embassy in Somalia, a move that marks the beginning of a new relationship between both countries.
“Today we affirm the relations between the American people and the Somali people and our two nations. It is a significant and historic day that reflects Somalia’s progress in recent years,” said U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Donald Yamamoto.
The American official added that the development is another step forward in “regularizing U.S. diplomatic engagement in Mogadishu” since recognizing the federal government of Somalia in 2013.
In 1991, the U.S. Embassy in the southern African country was closed, after the breakout of a civil war. The country descended into chaos when longtime dictator Mohammad Siad Barre was overthrown by clan-based militias, throwing Somalians into war and famine.
As a result of the conflict, the then U.S. President George Bush ordered troops to help with humanitarian operations. This move was followed by backlashes, costing Washington 18 of her soldiers.
The U.S. ambassador at the time, James Keough Bishop, had to be airlifted out of the country that same year. And not long after, America ceased most of its diplomatic relations with Somalia.
Apart from the U.S. limiting its engagement with Somalia, the country has been shut out by most foreign investors and organizations. Mogadishu is also not a member of any regional economic bloc and lacks any formal trade deals with ‘big’ nations.
All of these trade difficulties, coupled with drought and a collapsed currency, have hindered the country from participating in local and international markets as well as foreign investment flows.
The reopening of the embassy signals a likely permanent presence in the capital, Mogadishu. Even though the Horn of Africa nation is still faced with attacks by al-Qaeda (an Islamist extremist group), this rekindled relationship is believed to be a step towards stability, advancement and above all economic prosperity.
As the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said, Somalia’s economic progress, challenged by the recent drought will depend on the “implementation of policy reforms along with continued support from donors to develop capacity and preserve security.”
In addition, the U.S. government has pledged to provide the country with $257 million for humanitarian aid. This assistance will address life-threatening hunger, acute malnutrition, provide safe water, emergency health care, education, and protection to people.
With the U.S. embracing prospects for economic growth in the African country, other countries and foreign investors could follow suit. And Somalia appears on track for a significant economic recovery in the long run.