London Somalia Conference: A Betrayal of Somali Optimism

I would be lying if I said I had any real expectations for the much hyped  London Somalia Conference, and yet when the day came my deeply buried optimism emerged. I noticed myself obsessively checking the BBC Somali news service and other news outlets for updates and watched snippets of the opening speeches. I was especially pleased with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emphasis on ending the TFG come August 2012 and the pledge of a new stability fund. There was of course no serious discussions on how to solve the deep seated political problems in Somalia before the August deadline, piracy and the threat of terrorism were given far more weight than the massive humanitarian crisis faced by Somalis,  but then again it was just one day conference organised by the U.K, no big surprises. Despite this, all in all the London Conference didn’t seem to display any of the the sinister motives some commentators were fearing, raising fears that British meddling could lead to Somalia’s ‘ultimate demise’.

These sinister motives, however, became all too clear yesterday with the report published by The Observer. The story reveals whilst world leaders were meeting in London giving lofty speeches on how the world can no longer ignore Somalia’s myriad of problems, British officials were exploiting Somalia’s lack of a legitimate government and poverty to gain a stake in Somalia’s future energy industry. Prime Minster Abdeweli Gaas himself admitting that he would trade Somalia’s natural resources in return for aid. It’s pretty remarkable how in the space of less than a week, the optimism this conference raised amongst Somalis back home and abroad was so quickly replaced by the default cynicism toward the West’s interventions in Somalia. All hopes raised on the day, that the international community were taking serious steps to solve Somalia’s problems if not for the sake of its long-suffering people, but to defend the West from terrorism, have been swiftly dashed.

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