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U.S. Special Envoy Cites Widespread 'Lack of Confidence' in Somali Government

Council on Foreign Relations

Interviewee: John M. Yates, U.S. Special Envoy to Somalia
Interviewer: Stephanie Hanson, News Editor

September 19, 2007

Since the United States tacitly supported an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia that ousted the Islamic Courts Union controlling much of the country, Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government has struggled in its stabilization efforts. Ambassador John M. Yates, U.S. special envoy to Somalia, says there has been “some momentum” since the close of a six-week reconciliation conference in August, and that the “first priority will be the drafting of a constitution.” Yates notes, however, that the security situation in Mogadishu remains “fairly dismal,” and there is a “lack of confidence in the Transitional Federal Government in its capacity to carry forward.” He says the Eritrea provides support to insurgents in Somalia, but the U.S. ability to influence Eritrea “seems to be limited.”

As the U.S. special envoy to Somalia you’ve kept a pretty low profile. Can you discuss what your focus has been since you took this role, and some of the different challenges that you’ve faced thus far?

I’ve been running within the embassy in Nairobi, the Somali unit. We’re now up to about five Americans and two Foreign Service Nationals, and my main focus has been on dealing with the [Transitional] Federal Government, with all the different stripes of Somali leaders, and with the international community. I’ve been traveling quite a bit, especially to Addis Ababa. You should understand that the ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, is also officially responsible for the conduct of foreign relations with Somalia, so he is also very much involved. We work very closely together, of course with the assistant secretary, [Jendayi] Frazer.

 

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.



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