Somalia hosted its first regional summit of African heads of state in 30 years, a source of pride in this Horn of Africa country after decades of chaos and deadly attacks by al-Shabab extremists. On social media, people marveled that their country was trending for something other than explosions.
“The presence of the heads of state in Somalia is a clear dividend of returning stability in the country. It is an endorsement of Somalia’s recovery”, the African Union’s special representative for Somalia, Francisco Caetano Madeira, said in a statement. The United Nations mission in Somalia called it a “great achievement”. Somalia is now preparing for a presidential election in October, another significant step forward.
Several of the countries invited to the summit take part in a 22,000-strong African Union force protecting Somalia, though the force faces funding cuts and troop shortages that experts have warned could further destabilize the country.
The summit’s communique called on the AU force and Somalia’s security forces to “expand their operations, deal with evolving terror threats, and immediately recover the remaining areas controlled by al-Shabab”.
It also encouraged the “voluntary return of all Somali refugees”. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have spent years in the world’s largest refugee camp across the border in Kenya. Kenyatta has said his government will close Dadaab camp this year, leading to fears that some people would be forced to return.