U.S. Reopens Embassy in Somalia for First Time in Nearly 30 Years

American Flag
AP Photo/Rich Predroncelli

The United States reopened its embassy in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Wednesday nearly three decades after the country collapsed into a state of civil war.

Former President George H.W Bush shut down the U.S. embassy in 1991 following overthrow of then-President Siad Barre’s military regime, which led to decades of civil war and unrest. Diplomatic relations have improved in recent years and the U.S. recognized the Somali federal government in 2013.

“The United States is proud to announce the re-establishment of the U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu.  Since the closure on January 5, 1991, the United States has maintained its partnership with the Somali people, including the re-establishment of a permanent diplomatic presence in Mogadishu in December 2018 with the U.S. Mission to Somalia,” the Embassy said in a statement.

“The reestablishment of Embassy Mogadishu is another step forward in the resumption of regular U.S.-Somali relations, symbolizing the strengthening of U.S.-Somalia relations and advancement of stability, development, and peace for Somalia, and the region,” it continued.

U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Donald Yamamoto said that the move “reflects Somalia’s progress in recent years” under President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.

“Today we reaffirm the relations between the American people and the Somali people and our two nations,” said Yamamoto. “It is a significant and historic day that reflects Somalia’s progress in recent years, and another step forward in regularizing U.S. diplomatic engagement in Mogadishu since recognizing the federal government of Somalia in 2013.”

A permanent diplomatic presence to Somalia was re-established in December last year, although the ambassadors remain located in Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya. The new embassy building is located on the grounds of Mogadishu’s international airport.

The country still remains under major security threats as the Islamist terrorist group al-Shabaab continues to wage campaigns of violence and terror. On Monday, al-Shabaab fighters attempted to storm the U.S military base in Baledogle, southern Somalia, that is used by Somali and U.S. forces to launch drone strikes against al-Shabaab targets.

The organization, which operates as a proxy of al-Qaeda, has been significantly weakened in recent years and driven out of Mogadishu. The U.S. military has carried out 54 air raids against al-Shabaab targets so far this year.

American-led attacks against the group have risen since 2017 when President Donald Trump declared southern Somalia an “area of active hostilities” and imposed a travel ban on Somali nationals trying to enter the United States.

“U.S. Embassy Mogadishu will act to enhance cooperation, advance U.S. national strategic interests, and support our overall security, political, and economic development goals and objectives,” Yamamoto continued. “The United States remains a strong partner to Somalia in its effort to build a stable, credible, and democratic country.”

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