WASHINGTON (AP) — For the first time in more than 20 years, the U.S. will appoint an ambassador to Somalia in what a senior official on Tuesday described as show of faith for future stability in the war-ravaged African nation.
Even so, the U.S. has no immediate plans to re-open its embassy in the Somali capital Mogadishu, which has been beset by violence and deadly bombings spurred by the militant network al-Shabab. As recently as two weeks ago, a car bomb outside the national parliament building killed at least seven people, and a senior al-Shabab fighter threatened Americans in a radio broadcast in Somalia.
In a Tuesday speech, U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman said the decision to name an ambassador to Somalia reflects what she called a sign of the deepening relations between Washington and Mogadishu and "the faith that better times are ahead."
She challenged Somalis to eschew generations-old clan rivalries and focus on building a united national government.
"None of us can make that choice for Somalis," Sherman told the U.S. Institute for Peace in Washington. "But Somalis should know, if they choose to continue to come together, they will have enthusiastic and substantial international support."
Western diplomats began increasing ties with Mogadishu after Somali civil activist Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected president in September 2012. Washington formally recognized the new government four months later, and Great Britain opened an embassy in Mogadishu's fortified airport compound last spring.