The Federal Government of Somalia has taken another step in joining the international community, appointing an ambassador to the United States and opening an embassy in Washington. Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke presented his credentials to President Obama in a ceremony at the White House on July 14. The first Somali ambassador to the U.S. in more than two decades, his appointment represents the progress that his nation and government have made in recent years.
Somalia’s embassy in Washington closed in 1992 after the fall of its long-time president, Siad Barre. Years of clan and political in-fighting ensued, followed by a violent insurgency conducted by the al-Qaeda linked militant group al-Shaabab. Although with no formal diplomatic ties before 2012, the United States and others in the international community worked to end the crisis, providing millions in humanitarian aid and working to promote a stable government. Emerging from a four-year United Nations-backed transition plan in 2012, Somalia had its first elected government in 20 years.
Ambassador Sharmarke’s arrival in Washington represents a further strengthening of U.S.-Somali relations. He is well familiar with America, and served as Somalia’s prime minister under the transitional federal government.
With Somalia’s emergence from more than two decades of conflict, expanding contacts has been a top U.S. priority. Last month, our government announced that the U.S. will soon name its own ambassador to Somalia, resident in Nairobi. With these two key diplomatic posts filled, our governments will be fully engaged, advancing U.S. interests in the Horn of Africa and helping restore stability, peace and security to Somalia.