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Somalia - Foreign Relations

Somalia followed a foreign policy of nonalignment for a brief period following independence. In 1970, the Siad Barre regime declared a national ideology based on scientific Socialism and aligned its foreign policy with the Soviet Union and China. In the 1980s, Somalia shifted its alignment to the West following a territorial conflict with Ethiopia over the disputed Somali-populated region of the Ogaden from 1977-78, in which the Soviet Union supported Ethiopia. The Somalia central government also sought ties with many Arab countries, and continued to receive financial and military support from several Arab countries prior to its collapse in 1991.

In 1963, Somalia severed diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom for a period following a dispute over Kenya’s northeastern region (Northern Frontier District), an area inhabited mainly by Somalis. Related problems have arisen from the boundary with Ethiopia and the large-scale migrations of Somali nomads between Ethiopia and Somalia. In the aftermath of the 1977-78 war between Somalia and Ethiopia, the Government of Somalia continued to call for self-determination for ethnic Somalis living in the Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia. At the March 1983 Nonaligned Movement summit in New Delhi, President Siad Barre stated that Somalia harbored no expansionist aims and was willing to negotiate with Ethiopia over the disputed Ogaden region.

Following the collapse of the Barre regime, the foreign policy of the various entities in Somalia, including the TFG, has centered on gaining international recognition, winning international support for national reconciliation, and obtaining international economic assistance.

Following the collapse of the Barre regime in 1991, various groupings of Somali factions sought to control the national territory (or portions thereof) and fought small wars with one another. Approximately 14 national reconciliation conferences were convened over the succeeding decade. Efforts at mediation of the Somali internal dispute were also undertaken by many regional states.

In the mid-1990s, Ethiopia played host to several Somali peace conferences and initiated talks at the Ethiopian city of Sodere, which led to some degree of agreement between competing factions. The Governments of Egypt, Yemen, Kenya, and Italy also have attempted to bring the Somali factions together. In 1997, the Organization of African Unity and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) gave Ethiopia the mandate to pursue Somali reconciliation.

In 2000, Djibouti hosted a major reconciliation conference (the 13th such effort), which in August resulted in creation of the Transitional National Government (TNG), whose 3-year mandate expired in August 2003. Kenya organized the Somalia National Reconciliation Conference, a 14th reconciliation effort, in 2002 under IGAD auspices. The conference concluded in August 2004 with the establishment of a Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

The absence of a central government in Somalia allowed outside forces to become more influential by supporting various groups and persons in Somalia, particularly Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya, all of which have supported various Somali factions and transitional governments. In July 2006, Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia and defeated the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization al-Shabaab, formerly the nominal military wing of the ICU, became independent of the Courts and launched a multi-faction insurgency after the Courts scattered as a result of the 2006 invasion.

In February 2011, the TFG unilaterally extended its mandate by 3 years, from August 2011 to August 2014, without consultation with the international community. The international community almost unanimously opposed this. To resolve the political impasse surrounding the unilateral extension of its mandate, the TFG agreed in June 2011 to limit its mandate extension to 12 months as part of the Kampala Accord.

Established on 2 May 2013 by the UN Security Council, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) was launched on 3 June 2013. UNSOM’s core role is to act as an enabler, helping to create and galvanize the political and strategic environment in which stabilisation and peace-building can proceed, including by leveraging other parts of the UN system and international partners. UNSOM supports the Federal Government of Somalia’s agenda of peace, security and nation-building and will help the country move towards free and fair elections in 2016. It exercises its mandate guided by the principles of Somali ownership, flexibility, collaboration and partnerships.

On 17 November 2015, at the end of a five-day visit to Somalia, Ivan Šimonovic, the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for human rights, called on the country’s international partners to increase their support to the Federal Government in its efforts to advance human rights. “Without increased support from its international partners, current gains made by Somalia in promoting and protecting human rights will be at risk,” Mr. Šimonovic said at a press conference in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, shortly before leaving the country.

On 17 November 2015 the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, congratulated the Somali people on the regional consultations on options for the 2016 electoral process, which concluded across the country.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 11:45:52 ZULU