John Kerry became the first United States secretary of state to visit Somalia when he landed in Mogadishu on Tuesday for an unannounced visit.
“The secretary of state was greeted upon arrival in Mogadishu by Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who called the visit ‘a great moment’ for his nation.
” ‘I’m glad to be here,’ Kerry said, asking if the president had spent a ‘long time’ waiting for his arrival.
” ‘It’s worth waiting,’ Mohamud replied.”
USA Today says that this was a risky trip for Kerry. He arrived in Mogadishu before noon local time and immediately began a series of meetings.
Kerry never left the airport. USA Today reports:
” ‘The next time I come, we have to be able to just walk downtown,’ Kerry told Somalia’s president. Mohamud replied, downtown ‘is very different now.’
“Top of the agenda is the fight against al-Shabab. African forces and U.S. drone strikes have crippled the organization’s leadership in recent years and left the extremists without much of the territory they once controlled or the cash flows needed to reverse their losses.
“But as al-Shabab has decentralized, the militants in some ways have become even more dangerous, expanding their activities in Kenya and other neighboring countries. Last month’s massacre at Kenya’s Garissa University College killed 148 people, mostly students, and underscored the group’s capacity to carry out relatively unsophisticated but extremely deadly terrorist attacks far from its bases of operations.”
According to Al Jazeera, a senior State Department official said the visit was intended to send a message to the Islamist group al-Shabab “that we are not turning our backs on the Somali people and will continue to engage with Somalia until we bring al-Shabab terror to an end.”