The US Secretary of State has arrived in Mogadishu, the first ever to do so. Kerry hailed the progress made against al-Shabab, but did not venture further than the airport amidst security concerns.
In a show of solidarity with a Somalia that is "turning around" in the fight against al Qaeda-linked militants after decades of war, US Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced visit to Somalia on Tuesday, a historical first.
The US has assisted the Somali government by carrying out drone strikes against the al-Shabab jihadists, but Kerry's trip is the highest-level visit from the US since the 'Black Hawk Down' incident in 1993 that left 18 Americans dead. Indeed, although Kerry praised the progress Mogadishu has made, the fact that his entire trip took place at the airport highlighted just how unstable the nation remains.
Indeed, the secretary of state spent only three hours at Mogadishu before flying off to Kenya.
"The net time I come, we have to be able to just walk downtown," Kerry said to President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. Downtown, the president answered, "is very different now."
Turning the tide against the terrorists
The terrorist activity has left Somalia without a government that can operate nationwide for two and a half decades. However, African forces combined with American airstrikes have crippled the al-Shabab leadership in recent years, their territory has been drastically reduced and their cash flow hindered.
"Over the past quarter century, you have known immense suffering from violence, from criminals, from sectarian strife, from dire shortages of food, and from an inability to remain safely even within your villages and homes," Kerry said in his address, adding "I visited Somalia today because your country is turning around."
The push back against al-Shabab has however also had the negative consequence of causing the terrorists to expand their efforts in neighboring countries such as Kenya. Last month, a massacre at Kenya's Garissa University College killed 148 people, mostly students.
es/jil (AP, AFP, dpa)