Thank you, Mr. President. Let me also thank Under Secretaries-General Pascoe and Malcorra for their comprehensive briefings today as well as the Permanent Observer of the African Union and the Permanent Representative of Somalia, Ambassador Duale, for being with us today.
The United States remains committed to several goals in Somalia: first, supporting Somalia's Transitional Federal Government in its battle against al-Shabaab and other violent extremists; second, bolstering the African Union Mission in Somalia; third, helping the TFG establish itself as a legitimate and stable government that can control its territory and provide basic services to its citizens; fourth, partnering with the international community to ease the suffering of the Somali people; and fifth, battling the scourge of piracy off the Somali coast.
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent military offensives, designed to topple the TFG, that have been launched by al-Shabaab, which the United States has designated as a foreign terrorist organization. We are particularly concerned by the recent influx of foreign fighters into Mogadishu’s already precarious security environment. Such extremists aim to prolong the cycle of violence and poverty that has ravaged Somalia for almost two decades. The international community must stand united in its support for the TFG. If the extremists are successful, we could lose yet another generation of Somalis to war, disease, and desperate poverty.
The people of Somalia have suffered far too much for far too long. The international community must support their efforts to improve security and extend the reach of their government institutions as well as provide life-saving humanitarian assistance. Without our support, Somalia risks becoming a lasting safe haven and training ground for those plotting terrorist attacks around the world.
AMISOM is playing an indispensible role in helping to stabilize the security situation on the ground. In particular, we salute the dedication of the Ugandan and Burundian forces. But their bravery alone is not enough. AMISOM needs the support of the UN and its member states to achieve its objectives. This is why the United States continues to support the provision of a UN support package to AMISOM, as approved by this Council in Resolution 1872. My government has also provided more than $135 million in training, equipment, and logistical support to AMISOM since the mission’s creation. But more still must be done. We call on the African Union states to consider sending peacekeepers to this vital mission, and we call on UN member states to extend generous support for AMISOM's activities.
Mr. President, we have to do more than support the TFG and AMISOM. We must also bring immense pressure to bear on those working to subvert the TFG and the Djibouti Process and to undermine efforts to stabilize Somalia. It is no secret that al-Shabaab has been bolstered by al-Qaeda operatives and by the hundreds of foreign fighters that have been pouring into Somalia. We must all do a better job of stemming the flow of extremists, arms, and financial support into Somalia.
The United States is particularly concerned about the financial, military, logistical, and political support that the Government of Eritrea is offering to al-Shabaab and other extremists in Somalia. The United States and others have tried repeatedly to engage the Eritrean leadership, including with the aim to convince them to stop. But to date, the Eritreans have rebuffed attempts to open a substantive dialogue. But even now, it is not too late. The United States calls on the Government of Eritrea to seize this window of opportunity to change course.
Mr. President, the United States is extremely concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Somalia, as documented by Under Secretary-General Pascoe here today. To date, nearly 500,000 Somali refugees have fled the country, and more than 1.5 million people have been internally displaced. In January 2009, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reported that 3.2 million people needed humanitarian assistance in Somalia—roughly 43 percent of the population.
To help meet these needs, the United States Government has provided more than $149 million in Fiscal Year 2009 for humanitarian assistance programs in Somalia, including more than $9 million to support agriculture and food security, economic and market systems, health, nutrition, protection, and clean water, sanitation, and improved hygiene. Security in Somalia properly tends to be the international community's main focus. And it should be as the security situation severely exacerbates the humanitarian crisis. But even so, the international community must redouble its aid efforts to avoid a wider humanitarian catastrophe.
We are also quite concerned with the large influx of refugees into Kenya. Geography will continue to make Kenya—along with Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Yemen—a primary destination for Somalis fleeing their country. But we urgently need to expand refugee-camp capacity in Kenya; the three primary camps near the border are terribly overcrowded, with more than 275,000 refugees crammed into a space designed for 90,000 people. The United States and others are supporting UNHCR’s efforts to acquire more land for new camps and to ease the burden that Kenyan communities bear from hosting so many refugees.
Finally, let me say a few words about piracy. As we all know, piracy offshore is but a symptom of the larger problems facing Somalia onshore. But even as we work to cure the disease, we must continue to treat the symptoms.
The international response to the piracy problem has been impressive. But we still face significant legal, logistical, and political problems over one key component of an effective deterrence strategy: that is, the prosecution of suspected pirates. My government believes that states victimized or affected by piracy bear the primary responsibility for prosecuting pirates. These states must step up and shoulder their share of the burden of the prosecutions, as France, the Netherlands, and others have done. In the rare cases in which a state truly cannot prosecute, we applaud the willingness of regional states, such as Kenya, to let themselves be considered as alternative venues. But in such cases, we believe the affected states should be responsible for helping defray the trials’ costs.
In conclusion, let me say that all of us can see that paying ransom perpetuates acts of piracy. The United States does not offer concessions to hostage-takers, whether they are driven by political or financial motives. And we encourage other states to take a similar position. We would, in particular, be interested in forming a group of so called, “no concession” states to work together to slow the rise of piracy off the Somali coast.
Mr. President, the United States looks forward to continuing to work with the UN and all member states to finally forge a stable, secure, and more prosperous Somalia.
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