Somalia raises 1.8 billion euros in aid pledges
BRUSSELS -- International donors pledged 1.8 billion euros (2.4 billion dollars) Monday to help rebuild Somalia after more than two decades of civil war.
In return, the African nation committed itself to an ambitious institution-building plan.
"A remarkable transformation is being achieved in Somalia," said President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, thanking the country's partners for their "sense of solidarity at this critical juncture of our history."
The commitments, made in a "New Deal" signed by Somalia and its international partners, would "create a better future for all Somali people, Mohamud said. "It defines the key political, security and development priorities for the country for the coming three years."
The European Union, which co-hosted the conference, directly pledged 650 million euros, with further contributions from member states and other countries among the 50 present at the Brussels talks.
The biggest contributors included Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Germany, according to a European Commission source.
"Our assistance has ... focused on strong political support for Somalia's transition from a fragile country to stability, to peace, and to reconstruction," said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
The 2013-16 pledge by the European Commission, the bloc's executive, came on top of its continued funding to the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM), said EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.
But the latest pledges were dismissed by the Islamist al-Shabaab militia group, which has been on the back foot since 2011 but still controls vast areas of southern and central Somalia
"The billions promised will most likely be unpaid, the paltry sum given to the apostates will be lost in corruption," the group posted on Twitter, adding that "Conferences never really had any meaningful impact on the ground here in Somalia."
Somalia's agreement pledged to move forward in five key areas: inclusive politics, security, justice, economic foundations and generating revenues to build public services.
"Where there was despair after 20 years of war, of famine, of destitution, now there is hope -- hope that a better future is achievable," said EU President Herman Van Rompuy.
"Somalia has made important progress this year," said Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, adding however that "problems and challenges remain."
Piracy has been an issue for Somalia, although NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen noted that no attacks had been recorded off its shores for more than a year.
At the same time, "we cannot allow ourselves to lower our guard," the NATO chief said. NATO has contributed to the anti-piracy effort off the Horn of Africa with its Operation Ocean Shield.
"The deep causes of piracy are not to be found at sea, but on land," Rasmussen told journalists during a visit to NATO headquarters by Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh, who was also taking part in the Somalia conference.
"We hope that the Somali people, with this international solidarity, will be able to benefit ... (and that) this country will see the light after 22 years of chaos and misery and civil war," Guelleh said.
"None of us will remain complacent with the challenges that remain," Barroso said after holding separate talks with Mohamud, adding. "Recent terrorist attacks demonstrate the remaining threats to security.
Earlier this month, at least 15 people were killed in bombings at a hotel and nearby restaurant in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. The establishments, frequented by government officials and the city's elite, had been targeted before in attacks claimed by al-Shabaab.
In the past five years, the EU has spent more than 500 million euros in development aid on Somalia and almost 700 million euros for security, including contributions to AMISOM, military training and the Atalanta counterpiracy mission off the Horn of Africa.