SA offers helping hand to Somalia

South Africa has moved to strengthen ties with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia.

In addition to re-establishing diplomatic relations with the war-torn East African country, South Africa has allocated R100-million to providing capacity- and institution-building, socio-economic support and training to the Somalian government.

South Africas high commissioner to Kenya, who is based in Nairobi, will take responsibility for diplomatic relations with Somalia until South Africa is able to open a diplomatic mission in Mogadishu.

The move was announced by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane at a press briefing held in Pretoria on Tuesday.

Nkoana-Mashabane, said the agreement to establish formal diplomatic ties with Somalia was a “crucial step” in developing relations between the two countries.

“This move will afford us with an opportunity to closely assess the situation in Somalia and propose interventions in partnership with Somalis and other key players towards the realization of lasting and meaningful peace in Somalia,” she said.

She said the department aims to establish a full-fledged mission in Somalia in time.

A political solution to piracy
Nkoana-Mashabane said government remains concerned about the threat that piracy and armed robbery pose along the coast of Africa, all the way down to the Mozambican Channel.

She said that political instability in Somalia continued to provide “fertile ground” for piracy but added that the solution to this was “on land”.

“The issue of piracy will only be solved once there is political stability in Somalia,” she said.

South African couple Bruno Pelizzari and Deborah Calitz were kidnapped by Somali pirates off the coast of Tanzania in October 2010. They appear to have been sold and resold to businessmen linked to the al-Qaeda affiliated terror group al-Shabab. They are currently believed to be in Marka, about 200km south of Mogadishu in an area controlled by al-Shabab.

The ransom demand for the couple was recently raised from $800 000 to $1.5-million.

The South African government has refused to become involved in negotiations for the release of the couple, saying that this is against national policy.

Vera Hecht, the family member currently handling the ransom negotiations for the couple, told the M&G she would not comment on the matter for fear that the ransom demands would be further inflated.

Somalia in transition
Nkoana-Mashabane said that lasting peace in Somalia can only be realised through negotiations and called on Somalias armed opposition groups, including al-Shabab, to lay down their arms and join the peace process.

She called on Somalis hoping for a return to “constitutional normalcy” to “pick up the pieces and rebuild their nation”.

South Africa, with its relatively recent experience in constitution-making and its reputation for having one of the most advanced Constitutions in the world, has stepped forward to offer Somalia advice on the constitution-making process.

South Africa will host a 30-member delegation of Somali lawmakers, who are part of the constitution-making process on a study tour.
The lawmakers will engage with local constitutional law experts and meet with people who played a role in drafting the South African constitution.

The TFGs political mandate expires in August 2012, by which time the countrys political transitional period must end.

The UN Security Council has stressed that there will be no further extension of the transitional period. In the meantime it has increased the number of peacekeepers serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia,which provides support to the TFG, from 12 000 to 17 000.

Somalias Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullahi Haji Hassan, who also attended the briefing, said the TFG had already achieved half of the benchmarks that it needed to achieve by the end of that period.

“Were confident we can work by August 2012 to achieve the mandate of this transitional government,” he said.

Hassan said two key components that still need to be concluded include the adoption of a new constitution and the reformation of the Somali Parliament and added that he was “90% sure” that this could be done in the timeline specified.

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker is a reporter for the Mail & Guardian. She writes on everything from pop science to public health, and believes South Africa needs carbon taxes and more raging feminists. When she isn't instagramming pictures of her toddler or obsessively checking her Twitter, she plays third-person shooters on Xbox Live. Read more from Faranaaz Parker

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