Washington, D.C. – Secretary of State designate Hillary Clinton should address the humanitarian and political crisis in Somalia as soon as she takes office, Refugees International urged today after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved her nomination. Refugees International congratulated Mrs. Clinton on receiving approval by the Senate panel, but urged quick action. Somalia faces the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and the U.S. should play a lead role in addressing the political chaos at the root of the issue.
“Refugees International congratulates Mrs. Clinton on today’s panel vote. However, we ask her to follow up on the statements she made in her confirmation hearing about her use of soft power in Africa, particularly Somalia,” said Advocate Patrick Duplat. “More than three million people are in desperate need of assistance in Somalia, and the situation is further overshadowed by the piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia. The incoming administration has a chance to overhaul U.S. policy and address the root cause of the problem, instead of searching for military quick fixes that aggravate the crisis.”
During her confirmation hearing, Mrs. Clinton was asked about her commitment to Africa, her use of soft power on the continent, in particular in the Horn of Africa, and how she intends to help bring a solution to the crisis in Somalia. In response, Ms. Clinton underlined the importance of bringing peace to trouble spots like Somalia, and asked for advice on how to do so.
“The U.S needs a completely new diplomatic paradigm for Somalia. The incoming administration should place a greater focus on humanitarian needs,” added Mr. Duplat. “U.S. policy on Somalia should not be led by the Department of Defense. The application of soft power is desperately needed, where U.S. airstrikes and support for the Ethiopian armed forces have hindered humanitarian and diplomatic objectives.”
In addition to a new diplomatic approach, Refugees International urged Mrs. Clinton to support more inclusive peace negotiations that engage opposition groups, and also to approach the use of a UN force in Somalia cautiously. This week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice circulated a draft resolution at the UN Security Council seeking the authorization for the deployment of a UN Peacekeeping Operation in Somalia.
“The security situation in Somalia remains uncertain in the midst of the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces, but it is abundantly clear that there is no peace to keep,” said Mr. Duplat. “No UN force can or should replace the Ethiopian army and it cannot take on a counter-insurgency role on behalf of a government that holds little credibility with the Somali people.”
Refugees International is a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and in addition to Somalia is focusing its efforts on displacement in Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Colombia. In October 2008, Refugees International staff conducted a mission to the Horn of Africa to assess the humanitarian conditions for Somali refugees. For more information, go to http://www.refugeesinternational.org .
Vanessa Parra; +1-202-904-0319