London conference seeks stable Somalia under new leadership

London conference seeks stable Somalia under new leadership
International leaders and more than 40 government delegations are meeting in London on Thursday to thrash out agreements with Somalia aimed at stabilising the country under its new political leadership.

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UK - Somalia conference

International leaders gathered in London on Thursday to thrash out agreements with Somalia aimed at stabilising the country under its new political leadership.

The one-day conference seeks to strike a new compact that will accelerate progress on security, development and the troubled east African country's economy by 2020.

"Delegates from across Africa and Europe have arrived in London for the third conference on Somalia's future with the intention of discussing debt relief, security support and post-war reconstruction," said The New Arab's Robert Cusack, reporting from the conference.

"All of these issues are seen as crucial in the fight against al-Shabaab and in developing the country's flat-lining economy over the long-term."

Britain's Foreign Office said it was aiming for "a new partnership for Somalia".

The meeting is being co-chaired by Somalia's new President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini is also attending, along with US Defence Secretary James Mattis and Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon.

Somalia is under a new president, prime minister and parliament this year and the conference is focused on underpinning stability in this electoral cycle.

Around 40 delegations from countries and international institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the League of Arab States are participating in the conference.

The gathering focuses on stimulating growth in one of the world's poorest countries and securing a path towards debt relief, hence the large turnout from international financial institutions.

In order to gain financial aid to relieve some $5.3 billion in long-standing debts Somalia will have to make commitments to reform its economy and tackle corruption.

The international community is also looking for a commitment from Somalia to deliver a one person, one vote democracy by 2020-21.

Famine, piracy, Islamism fears

Diplomatic sources said the meeting was timely as drought, piracy and militant group al-Shabaab continue to represent ongoing threats to stability.

Last week, the UN said that Somalia, hit by drought and on the verge of famine, will count 1.4 million acutely malnourished children by the end of the year, up 50 percent from late 2016.

Additionally, half a dozen pirate attacks have recently been reported in the region, after falling to zero, General Thomas Waldhauser, the top US military chief in Africa said last month.

In a further development, earlier this month a US soldier was killed in a night-time raid, in what is believed to be the first US military death in combat in Somalia since the infamous "Black Hawk Down" operation 24 years ago.

Meanwhile, for the last decade, al-Shabaab has been fighting to overthrow the Somali government.

The group attacks government, military and civilian targets in the capital and elsewhere, often deploying suicide bombers, and has over-run several military outposts, massacring soldiers from the 22,000-member African Union Mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM.