Deputy Minister Lapo Pistelli’s mission to the Horn of Africa began today in Mogadishu. His visit, which will encompass 5 countries in the region, will end on Friday 4 July 2014.
Two years on from the last visit by an Italian political authority, Pistelli visited the United Nations base at the international airport and meet the command of the European armed forces training mission (EUTM Somalia), led by Gen. Mingiardi. He also visited the site of the new Italian embassy in the airport compound. “It bears testimony to Italy’s courageous commitment and friendship with the Somali people. Italy stands at the side of the government and of the countries of the region, who are combating Al-Shabaab terrorism. We will then need to fill the vacuum left by the withdrawal of Al-Shabaab with credible institutions that are in touch with the population and capable of meeting their basic needs”.
Somalia is a priority country for Italian Development Cooperation. A dozen or so important Italian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are working there on a number of donor-funded projects amounting to about 42 million euros and employing nearly 2000 Somalis.
“This is an extraordinary effort: from conflict prevention to food security, from health to education, the Italian presence can be seen and felt. Emergency [an NGO] will soon be helping get the De Martino hospital in the capital fully operational again”.
Accompanied by the new Italian Ambassador, Fabrizio Marcelli, and an armed escort, Deputy Minister Pistelli visited Villa Somalia. There he met the President, Hassan Sheik Mohamud, Prime Minister Abdiweli, and the Speaker of the Parliament, Mohamed Sheikh Jawari.
“I told each of my interlocutors that we must not miss this window of political will. Italy is leading the European training mission, it is helping train the police force, with the help of our Carabinieri. If the government plays its part by drafting a new Constitution, engaging in dialogue with the different regions, and rebuilding its capacity, Somalia can start afresh after 23 years of uninterrupted civil war”.
Pistelli’s visit took place on the 54th anniversary of the end of the Italian trusteeship of the country on behalf of the United Nations, and on the eve of the commemoration of Somalia’s independence.
The Somali authorities told the Deputy Minister that they looked favourably on the Italian government’s initiative on the regional dialogue on migration. “Significant flows of migrants and asylum seekers have been leaving this region in 2014. Together with the EU, and in a constructive dialogue, we aim to combat human trafficking, provide adequate levels of protection and work together on the root causes of under-development”.
Deputy Minister Pistelli’s mission will continue tomorrow, 1 July 2014, in Djibouti.