The Italian foreign minister has made a surprise visit to Somalia in an effort to renew ties, news agencies have reported.
Giulio Terzi’s visit to the capital Mogadishu on Tuesday is the first high-level visit from an official from Rome in two decades.
Welcoming Terzi, Somalia’s newly elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said he was looking forward to
renewed co-operation between his country and its former colonial master.
“Previously, Italian governments took part in development process in Somalia and now they are coming back
to help with development and stability of Somalia,” Mohamud told a news conference.
Terzi’s visit is likely to be seen as a sign of improved security and confidence since Africa Union troops drove al-Shabab fighters out of the capital and other major cities which were previously under their control.
Terzi said his country would co-operate with Somalia in areas of development and security within the country.
“[This is] the opportunity to assure the president of a strong commitment from the Italian government and all the
Italian institutions of increased areas of co-operations which grow from economic development, legal system,
judiciary and also co-operation among security operations and defence,” Terzi said.
Terzi’s visit comes just days after the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced the building of a new refugee camp in Ethiopia to deal with the continued influx of Somalis into the country.
“With people still arriving at Dollo Ado, the Ethiopian Government has authorised the opening of a sixth site and land for this has been designated between the town of Kole and Kobe camp, some 54 kilometres north of Dollo Ado town,” Andrej Mahecic, a spokesperson UNHCR, said.
More than a million Somalis live as refugees in neighbouring countries, with around half of these living in Kenya.
Ethiopia hosts 214,000 displaced persons in five camps at Dollo Ado as well as several hundred kilometres to the north in the eastern city of Jijiga.
The visit comes just over a year after Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, visited Mogadishu, amid one of the most devastating droughts to hit the Horn of Africa in decades.
Erdogan’s visit in August 2011 was the first by a non-African leader to the conflict-torn Mogadishu in nearly two decades, a move that was described as unprecedented at the time.
Mohamud’s election by Somali lawmakers as president was hailed by his supporters as a vote for change in a country that has lacked effective central government since 1991.