Danish Minister’s secret visit to Somalia

Danish Minister’s secret visit to Somalia ends at Mogadishu Airport.

Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod (Center) on lightning visit to Somalia. (Photo: Søren Bendixen © dr)

 

Jeppe Kofod reached no further than the airport on a secret visit to Somalia

Fear of terror prevented the Foreign Minister from moving outside of the top security zone.

November 06, 2019 (DR News, Denmark) – Mogadishu Airport is a fortress. Sandbags and barbed wire as far as the eye can see. Local soldiers and policemen, security officials from the African Union, the UN, the EU and private security companies here look after diplomats, relief workers, Somali politicians – and today a Danish foreign minister.

This is where UN emergency planes land, helicopters and the EU even have their own airline serving Somalia’s capital. Elsewhere in the world, an airport is something you want to get away from quickly. Here it is about staying.

Outside is dangerous. Al-Shabab terrorists are probably displaced from Mogadishu, but no more than they regularly attack strategic targets, which is why the airport is the only safe place for many foreigners.

First trip in Africa

Jeppe Kofod is on his first trip to Africa as Foreign Minister. Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia are on the agenda.

He will use the journey as inspiration to rethink Danish African politics, he says. It is about slowing migration across the Mediterranean, it is about trade, but also with a great deal of thought to fight radicalization and terrorism.

Wide security zones must protect Mogadishu airport from terrorist attacks. (Photo: DAI KUROKAWA / POOL © Scanpix)

 

Yesterday he visited the Kenyan navy, which Denmark supports in the fight against piracy. Today he was shown a little of the same at Mogadishu airport. Danish-backed naval police did a “man-over-board exercise” in honor of the Danish minister.

It was so close to the Somali reality that Jeppe Kofod could come during the secret visit. Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre would have liked to be accommodated in his own residence, but even that trip was considered too dangerous for the Danish politician. Then it turned into meetings with Khayre and Foreign Minister Ahmed Isse Awad at the airport.

Slender treasury

Kofod’s Somali counterpart was well pleased with Denmark’s contribution. Somalia’s government is fighting a tough fight to get money in a very slender treasury, and the payment of the most fundamental items is left to foreign donors.

At the same time, there are major challenges in securing population support. It is not a government elected by the people, but by a small group of people who, after 28 years of war, try to create some kind of momentum in the hard-to-find country.

In particular, the challenge is called al-Shabab – a terrorist organization that has caused havoc in the country for more than a decade. Now the organization has been displaced from the largest cities, but the attacks have intensified and the list of attacks is very long.

One billion from Denmark

Denmark will open a permanent representation in Somalia and will spend a billion kroner over the next four years in an effort to improve conditions in the hard-to-find country.

Jeppe Kofod feels confident that the money is well spent.

– I see that they make a difference in the projects we support, and there is huge potential in this country. It’s just about getting it utilized.

Somalia is probably the African country that has been most involved in the Danish debate in recent years, not least because of political wishes to return Somalis from Denmark.

When asked if this is what the visit is about, the Foreign Minister replies:

– It is about creating stability and security and development and democratization in East Africa, including Somalia, and that is what I am here for.

A swim was also excluded during the Danish visit to Somalia. (Photo: Søren Bendixen © dr)

 

Forced repatriations

Forced home agreements are often surrounded by great secrecy. No African leader gains popularity in his own population by welcoming citizens who do not want to go home from abroad.

A large part of Somalia’s economy is maintained by Somalis abroad, who send billions home every year for family and investment, but the Somali Foreign Minister confirms that this is something they are talking about:

“This is something we are talking to the ambassador about, and we are looking at how we can cooperate if there are Somalis who must be sent back,” says Ahmed Isse Awad.

Jeppe Kofod will not talk about homecoming at all.

“It’s not my board,” he says, before jumping on a plane again and heading towards Tanzania, which is the last stop on the trip.

By Søren Bendixen

Description of source: DR News is a website covering general news in Danish. Country of origin: Denmark

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