U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice went to Addis Ababba, Ethiopia, and met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Somalia's new prime minister Nur Hassan Hussein in an effort to help restore lasting peace and stability in Somalia.
U.S. efforts are focused on pressing Somalia's Transitional government to resume a political dialogue and work toward national elections expected to take place in 2009. The international community also remains focused on the humanitarian situation in southern Somalia, where recent fighting has sent an estimated two hundred thousand people fleeing Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.
During her meetings, Secretary of State Rice called on Somalia to reach a cease-fire and to finish plans to draft a new constitution. "A cease-fire agreement with key stakeholders such as clan and business leaders," Dr. Rice said, "would be an important step in helping to facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance and would reduce the level of violence."
The U.S. has supported the deployment of Ugandan forces to Mogadishu under the African Union mission in Somalia and is continuing that support for the upcoming deployment of an additional one-thousand-seven-hundred Burundian troops later this year. It is hoped that the deployment of addition African Union forces will allow Ethiopia to withdraw its forces from Somalia.
In addition, Secretary of State Rice is asking world leaders to organize a United Nations peacekeeping force to replace Ethiopian troops that are in Somalia:
"I spoke to [U.N.] Secretary General Ban Ki-moon just before I left Washington and we talked about the need to get this peacekeeping force in place. . . .We do believe Ethiopian forces should not have to stay in Somalia past a certain point, but it is going to require peacekeeping forces to be fairly robust peacekeeping forces."
Jendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said that national reconciliation is the key to stability in Somalia. "Somalia’s future," she said, "depends on reconciling the various communities, whether they are political communities, ideological, the different clans, civil society groups, intellectuals, religious authorities, all need to come together."