On December 10, the Italian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Emanuela Del Re, went to Mogadishu for her third visit to Somalia since 2018.
The Deputy Minister participated in the Donors Conference for the reconstruction of the Somali National University (UNS), which the Italian Agency for Cooperation has supported since its foundation in 1969. Speaking at the Conference, the Italian representative recalled how Rome has provided important support for the resumption of UNS operations, through numerous initiatives for the infrastructural works in the Campus, improvements in training offers, and scholarships for studying at Italian universities. The Deputy Minister has announced that Italy will support part of the renovation of the university campus with its own contribution in 2021.
During the same visit, Del Re also signed a bilateral Framework Agreement for Development Cooperation, together with Somali Foreign Minister, Mohamed Abdirizak. The Italian Deputy Minister also attended bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, the Minister of State to the Presidency of the Republic, Hassan Khalif, and the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Kadija Mhammed Dirye. For what concerns security issues, the Deputy Minister recalled the Italian role in strengthening the skills of the Somali law enforcement agencies, through training offered by Carabinieri at the Djibouti base. Moreover, Del Re underlined the importance of Italian contingents and personnel in the three European missions present in Somalia: EUNAVFOR Atalanta, EUTM, and EUCAP.
“Somalia is a strategic partner for Italy and a priority country for our foreign policy and development cooperation activities. We will continue to support Mogadishu in the reconstruction and stabilization process also in view of the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections,” the Italian Deputy Minister declared. “Italy is now called to assume a more significant leading role in the main multilateral fora and will continue to support Somalia’s efforts on its path towards sustainable development and progress,” she added. Italian and Europea support is very important for the African country, which is facing a delicate moment.
On December 4, the outgoing president of the United States, Donald Trump, announced his intention to withdraw the US troops deployed in Somalia, which number about 700 soldiers in total. That is part of a broader plan of withdraws from “the endless wars” fought by the United States. On December 5, Somali politicians appealed to the president-elect, Joseph R. Biden Jr., to reconsider this decision. The Pentagon confirmed that by next January 15 (five days before the inauguration of the new Biden administration) all the approximately 700 US soldiers currently deployed in Somalia as part of the AFRICOM command, will leave the African country.
The moment is extremely delicate for Somalia. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for January 2021 and, at the beginning of the month of February, the country will choose its new president. Popular elections were to be held in Somalia in 2020 for the first time since 1969, but the schedule was postponed due to security issues. Mogadishu may face greater difficulties in protecting electoral processes from multiple militant groups and, in particular, from Al-Shabaab. A Senator from Somalia’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Ayub Ismail Yusuf, posted a tweet calling Trump’s decision “premature” as the global fight against terrorism is still ongoing. Yusuf then commented, citing Joe Biden’s account, saying: “We must not abandon our successes.”