Europe commits emergency aid to Somalia

The European Union yesterday committed €70m in aid to Somalia to help rebuild the drought-stricken and civil war-plagued nation.

The European Union yesterday committed €70m in aid to Somalia to help rebuild the drought-stricken and civil war-plagued nation.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said yesterday’s agreement with Somalia was a milestone marking ”the commitment of Somalia to become an active member in the community of nations.”

Somalia’s Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi warned however that the situation remained precarious, especially after heavy fighting in the capital, Mogadishu, between warlords and pro-government militias at the weekend.

“Still it’s not quiet, so anything can happen,” Gedi told reporters.

EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel said EU governments were likely to pass the new aid package in April and that an even larger amount was planned in the near future to help bolster stability and reconstruction in Somalia. Michel said he would visit Mogadishu in May.

The EU has already put aside €200m in aid to help stabilise Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, and has given €10m in extra humanitarian aid this year to help victims of war and drought.

Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf, who also attended the talks, said he hoped Tuesday’s agreement would strengthen ties and end Somalia’s international isolation.

“We are determined to remain in the community of nations,” Yusuf said.

Barroso said the new aid package showed the EU’s ”assurances of moral, political and material support” for reconstruction in Somalia.

Yesterday’s was only the second such agreement signed between Somalia’s transitional government and other countries. It signed a similar deal with Kenya in September to work together on security and other issues.

Somalia’s transitional government has been eager to get international recognition since it left its temporary base in Kenya in June to try establish itself in Somalia, which has not had an effective government since 1991.

Hundreds of heavily armed Islamic militiamen attacked a port and airstrip on the north-eastern outskirts of Somalia’s capital on Saturday, killing at least 20 people.

The clash appeared to be the heaviest of four days of bloodshed between the rival factions, during which at least 93 people were killed.

The Islamic fighters are seeking to boost the power of a group of fundamentalist clerics trying to assert themselves as an alternative military and political force in the lawless country.

The nation on the Horn of Africa has not had an effective central government since clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Warlords then turned on one another, plunging the country of seven million into chaos.

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