Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged continued U.S. support for the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and called on Eritrea to halt interference in Somalia.
Clinton appeared at a joint press conference at the U.S. Embassy August 6, 2009 following talks with Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. She said the talks with the TFG leader were "a thorough and productive discussion about the challenges facing his country and the efforts of the international community to support the Transitional Federal Government as it stands up for the people of Somalia and against the threat of violent extremism."
Clinton pledged continued support for the TFG and said the United States has joined the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the African Union (AU) in endorsing the Somali-led Djibouti peace process, which aims to end conflict and restore peace.
"We believe that his [Sharif's] government is the best hope we have had in quite some time for a return to stability and the possibility of progress in Somalia," Clinton added.
Earlier in the day, Clinton, with the help of survivors, laid a wreath at Memorial Park in Nairobi, commemorating victims of the August 7, 1998, U.S. Embassy bombing, which killed 213 people and injured more than 4,000 others.
A stronger TFG would have "positive consequences, not just for Somalia but for the region and the wider global community. It would contribute to greater regional stability and start to alleviate the greater refugee crisis afflicting Somalia's neighbors, especially Kenya," which is currently hosting some 300,000 refugees, Clinton said.
She commended Sharif's government for "taking up the fight on behalf of the Somali people against al-Shabaab — a terrorist group with links to al-Qaida and other foreign militant networks."
Al-Shabaab "and its allies," she said, "lack regard for human rights, women's rights, for education, health care and the progress of the Somali people. They see Somalia as a future haven for global terrorism."
Millions of Somalis, or roughly 40 percent of the country's population, are in need of humanitarian assistance as they confront persistent conflict, prolonged drought and periodic disease outbreaks, she added.
Clinton acknowledged that the TFG institutions are in need of reform and support so they can make progress in delivering services to the Somali people.
Secretary Clinton lays a wreath at Memorial Park in Nairobi August 6 with survivors of the 1998 terrorist bombing of the U.S. Embassy."The United States and the international community must serve as an active partner in helping the TFG in helping the people of Somalia confront and ultimately move beyond the conflict and poverty that has gripped their country," she said.
She praised the AU mission in Somalia for playing an "instrumental role" in providing security and the space in which the TFG can operate.
The United States has provided more than $150 million over the past two years to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops, and more will be provided in the next few months, she said.
Clinton also pledged to continue providing equipment and training for the TFG and supplying humanitarian assistance to the Somali people and is asking other states in the region to support the Djibouti process.
"It is long past time for Eritrea to cease and desist its support for al-Shabaab and to start being a productive rather than a destabilizing neighbor," she said.
At the press conference, Sharif said through an interpreter that he was grateful for the meeting and that it was a good opportunity for his government and the people of Somalia.
He said he presented his views in "very frank" terms and hoped such meetings would help his country "move out of this current crisis."
Sharif told reporters that what is going on in Somalia is not a civil war but a situation fueled by "people with strategic interests to make Somalia a base from which to destabilize the world."
Islam is a peaceful religion, he explained, and what terrorists want to do by killing innocent people is not operating in accordance with Islam.
"My government is committed to serve the people of Somalia faithfully," he said.
Asked about Eritrea's continued interference in Somalia, Clinton said, "With respect to Eritrea, we are making it very clear that their actions are unacceptable, their interference with the rights of the Somali people to determine their own future [is] at the height of misplaced efforts … and we intend to take action if they do not cease."
Sharif added that solving a problem with another problem is not right, and that what Eritrea is doing in Somalia is harming the entire Horn of Africa.
Clinton next travels to South Africa on the second stop of her seven-nation trip. She will also visit Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde.