YOKOHAMA – Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has told Japan’s and Africa’s leaders that his country faces four challenges as it struggles to become a constructive member of the global community again after decades of civil war and anarchy.
Meeting on the eve of the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, African rulers on Friday discussed a number of concerns with Mohamud, including immediate basic security issues, as well as more mid- to long-term economic and social needs.
The Somali leader, in turn, identified his own government’s goals: security, meeting basic human needs, good governance and foreign investment.
“First, we must provide human security in order to uphold the rule of law, restore law and order, realize justice reform and establish credible law enforcement agencies,” he said.
Basic human needs, such as food, water, shelter and disease control for the most vulnerable parts of society, as well as able governance are also crucial, said Mohamud, who was elected president last September.
“And fourth and most important, we must seek economic revival by engaging the private sector and seeking direct foreign investment,” he stressed.
For his part, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who briefly attended the meeting, expressed cautious hope that Mohamud’s leadership could bring Somalia’s decades of civil war and strife to an end.
“Somalia has begun to take steps forward under the leadership of President Mahomud. The path ahead may not be smooth and the country faces tremendous challenges, but these challenges are also an opportunity,” Abe said.
Abe added that Somalia’s stability is not only important for the security and prosperity of eastern Africa, but also for the rest of the world, especially given the country’s proximity to the vital Gulf of Aden sea route.
“Stability is also indispensable for addressing the problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia and ensuring the safety of a major sea artery, one that plays a global role from the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and the Mediterranean,” Abe said.
Piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off Somalia is an internationally recognized problem with no clear solution, although anti-piracy measures have been showing results of late. Seventy-five incidents of piracy were recorded last year in the gulf, and 14 ships were boarded. In 2011, by contrast, there were 237 incidents and 28 ships were boarded.
Prior to the three-day TICAD conference, Abe met with Mohamud for a bilateral meeting and expressed his satisfaction that, after more than two decades, Japan and Somalia are once again strengthening relations.
Mohamud told Abe that training workers in security, public health, agriculture and education is extremely important. He also called for cooperation with Japan on infrastructure projects.
On security issues, Abe noted Japan has provided $55.4 million (¥5.6 billion) to help train Somalia’s police force and vowed further aid.
A Foreign Ministry representative said the new assistance would generally take the form of human resource development, although to what extent it would be used for further police training, or for training and equipping Somali forces to fight piracy, is still being discussed.
Mozambique pact OK’d
Japan and Mozambique have agreed to conclude a bilateral investment pact at a meeting of their leaders in Yokohama.
The agreement Friday comes at a time when Japanese companies are seeking to start natural resources operations in the oil- and coal-rich African nation. Some of Japan’s major trading houses and steel makers already have begun resources development projects in Mozambique.
The meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Mozambican President Armando Guebuza was held ahead of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Yokohama from Saturday.
In similar moves, Japan agreed with Tanzania on Thursday to start preliminary talks on an investment pact and with Ghana on Friday to launch full-fledged negotiations over a similar deal. Japan and Kenya were set to decide later Saturday on a start date for the discussions.