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U.S. Congress Urges President Obama to nominate new Ambassador ASAP


WASHINGTON—Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Tom Emmer (R-MN) and Adam Smith (D-WA) sent a letter today (July 17) with their colleagues Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Al Franken (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Reps. Erik Paulsen (R-MN), Stephen Lynch (D-MA) and Jim McDermott (D-WA) calling on President Barack Obama to name a new U.S. Ambassador to Somalia as soon as possible.

We write to respectfully urge you to name anew nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Somalia. Somalia has gone without a U.S.ambassador since 1991; the decision to restore a diplomatic mission affirms our commitment to working with the Somali government to build a strong, stable, and prosperous Somalia. We respectfully urge you to act swiftly to assign a new nominee for the position.

After nearly two decades of violence and famine, Somalia is making steady progress towards stability. The election of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in 2012 by a new federal parliament and the approval of a provisional constitution have allowed Somalia to reestablish central governance. Along with the assistance of the international community, Somalia has been able to make security gains against al-Shabaab. These are significant but fragile gains; recent horrific terrorist attacks in Mogadishu and Garissa, Kenya remind us that Somalia still faces enormous challenges.

Somalia’s success hinges on continued diplomatic engagement, strengthened security and the commitment of international partners to promote stability through capacity building and economic development. A robust U.S.-Somalia diplomatic relationship is critical to sustaining and expanding the progress that that country has achieved thus far.

President Obama’s nomination of the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia since 1991 earlier this year marks a new phase in our relationship with Somalia. Moving quickly to nominate another ambassador would further signal our strong commitment to Somalia.

The temporary closure of bank accounts ofmoney service businesses in Kenya and the permanent closure of accounts in the U.S. illustrates the need to work with the Somali government and promote institutional development. The closure of these bank accounts has made it difficult for members of the Somali diaspora in the U.S. to send money back to their loved ones in Somalia and the closures in Kenya threatened NGOs operating in the Horn of Africa. Remittances from the U.S. and abroad account for 25 to 40 percent of Somalia’s economy; cutting off the remittance pipe line increases the vulnerability of Somalis who rely on this money and can create a humanitarian crisis that will surely jeopardize security gains.

We strongly believe that an active American ambassador to Somalia can contribute to U.S. efforts to improve the flow of remittances through legal and transparent channels. The State Department, in cooperation with the Treasury Department, can work with the Somali governmentto implement creative solutions to this problem and collaborate in laying the foundations of a transparent and accountable financial system that can be part of the global economy in the future.

Somalia is at a critical moment and in desperate need of meaningful support and assistance to bolster stability in the country and throughout the region. Naming a new nominee as soon as possible would signal deep commitment and a new phase of collaboration between the U.S.and Somalia. We respectfully urge you to consider naming a new nominee for Ambassador to Somalia in the coming weeks.

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