Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Somalis to choose what support they want – British Envoy

BAIDOA, Somalia December 3 - The United Kingdom ambassador to Somalia Neil Wigan made his maiden visit to Baidoa on Tuesday to assess projects funded by the British tax payers as well as to meet with local leaders in a bid to improve bilateral relations between the two nations.
Speaking to the media in the agriculture-rich central town of Baidoa, ambassador Wigan said his government has set aside money for a special program dubbed “the stability fund” that is specifically designed to help Somalia recover from years of conflict and to help them address their key needs.
Unlike previous interventions this time round the Somali people will have the right to choose what projects or programs they need funded by British tax payers money. Such a bold move is expected to jumpstart the economy, create employments and more importantly end years of foreign aid policy interventions that has seen billions of foreign cash pumped into Somalia with little or no effect simply because the locals had no say in the design of the programs for maximum benefit.
“We are setting up something called the Stability Fund which allows local communities to decide for themselves what projects they would like to apply for,” Ambassador Neil told reporters in Baidoa adding that it is up to the locals to decide what they want most.
“We will certainly encourage those applications,” he added, reiterating their desire to directly support specific needs of the people of Somalia who have had to endure the agony of one of Africa’s longest civil wars that displaced millions of people with many more others killed or maimed in the unceasing violence.
However, these days Somalia is slowly recovering and locals are hopeful of the future following the expansion of the Somalia government to the hinterland with the support of African Union peacekeepers who continue to battle the Al-Qaeda linked militants, Al-Shabaab, which is against development and peace in Somalia.
The world and in particular strong Western countries like Britain and the US seems to have had enough of the melodrama in Somalia and have shown a desire to support the Somalis by not only recognizing their government but also restoring full diplomatic ties with Somalia.
Ambassador Neil Wigan replaced Matt Baugh as London’s man in Mogadishu in June this year following the re-opening of the British embassy in the seaside Somalia capital in April after being closed for 22 years.
Asked about his views on the recent vote of no confidence against Somalia Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon, ambassador Neil said the issue was a Somali affair but that it was pleasing to see the adherence of the constitution in resolving the political stalemate in the Horn of African country.
In his short visit to Baidoa, Ambassador Neil was impressed by the town’s potential.
“Baidoa is very green and peaceful and cool. So it’s a real pleasure to be here but I have seen that there is the damage that was done to Baidoa during the war and so there is need for international support,” Ambassador Neil observed.
The locals are already excited about the British support.
“The British government is aware of our needs because they have a very good understanding of Somalia,” said Clan Chief Mohamed Yakub Sheikh who spoke on behalf of all clans living in and around Baidoa.