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UK Foreign Minister William Hague arrives in Somalia

Hague calls for increased pressure against Islamist militants during the first visit by a British foreign minister to war-torn Somalia for 20 years.

Somalia al shabaab 2012 02 02 0Enlarge
African Union troops drove Al Shabaab militants (above) out of the Somali capital Mogadishu last year, but the Al Qaeda-linked group still controls large swathes of southern Somalia. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

UK Foreign Minister William Hague has called for increased pressure against Islamist militants during a visit to Somalia.

It is the first visit by a British foreign minister to the war-torn country for 20 years.

Hague’s arrival in the capital, Mogadishu, marks the start of an intensive diplomatic push to bring stability to a country he described as “the world’s most failed state” after meeting Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed at the presidential palace.

The UK is hosting a major conference in London on February 23 aimed at finding ways to end Somalia’s protracted crises and internal conflicts.

Hague promised that counter-terrorism would feature highly on the agenda, and that the conference would also tackle piracy and Somalia’s severe humanitarian issues, the BBC reported.

More from GlobalPost: Mogadishu attempts to evict Al Shabaab

The foreign minister praised African Union troops for driving Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab militants out of the city in October, but warned that radicals retain control over much of southern Somalia, saying, “we need to step this up,” the UK Press Association reported.

Britain also appointed its first ambassador to Somalia for 21 years during Hague’s visit. The new envoy, Matt Baugh, will remain in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi until an embassy can be opened securely in Mogadishu, according to Reuters.

The UN’s special envoy to Somalia moved from Nairobi to the capital last month after an absence of 17 years.

Somalia fell into brutal civil war after its dictator, Mohamed Siad Barre, was driven out of office in 1991. A weak and largely ineffectual transitional government has struggled to assert its authority beyond Mogadishu, although analysts believe that the ousting of Al Shabaab from the capital may offer a window of opportunity.

More from GlobalPost: UN re-establishes a presence in Mogadishu after a 17-year hiatus 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120202/uk-foreign-minister-william-hague-arrives-somalia