THE FIRST US ambassador to Somalia was sworn in Monday a quarter century after the US closed its embassy in Mogadishu following the collapse of Somali government in 1991 and subsequent protracted civil war.
Ambassador Stephen Schwartz was sworn in by the US by the deputy secretary of state Antony J. Blinken following senate approval paving way for establishment of a full diplomatic office for Somalia.
Schwartz was appointed by President Barack Obama in January but had to await Senate approval before he could take over office officially. Schwartz is expected to take over as envoy to Somalia from the current chargé d’affaires based in Nairobi.
The US established its Mission to Somalia in September last year as it prepared for resumption of full diplomatic presence in the Horn of Africa country. Somalia reopened its embassy November last year and appointed Ambassador Ahmed Issa Awad as presumptive envoy.
The two countries have strengthened diplomatic ties after they fell out in the early 1990 following the break out of civil war in Somalia. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Mogadishu in May last year signaling the US commitment to re-establishing its foot print in Somalia.
Speaking during the swearing in ceremony, Blinken said Somalia had made significant progress but noted there was need for sustained efforts to restore peace and stability in the country.
“Since the United States formally recognized the government three years ago, Somalia has made significant strides in rebuilding its state under a new federal framework. Al-Shabaab has been pushed out of the major population centers with the support of African Union partners, and a determined international effort has virtually put an end to Somali pirating. Businesses have reopened. Opportunity has regained a foothold,” said Blinken.
Somalia needs leaders who believe in this future and whose legitimacy to realize it is beyond question, noted Blinken.
Schwartz has served in various diplomatic capacities in Kenya, Burundi, and Ethiopia, New Zealand, Zambia among other countries.