Historic Somalia Visit Constrained to Airport

John Kerry becomes first secretary of state to visit African nation
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 5, 2015 8:51 AM CDT
Historic Somalia Visit Constrained to Airport
Kerry is the first US secretary of state to ever visit the country. Kerry is also visiting Sri Lanka, Kenya, Djibouti, France, and Saudi Arabia on his trip.   (Andrew Harnik)

Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced trip to Somalia today, becoming the first top US diplomat to ever visit the country. It marked a show of solidarity with a government trying to defeat al-Shabab and end decades of war. Kerry arrived at Mogadishu's airport shortly before noon local time, greeted by Somalia's president and prime minister on the tarmac in a trip made under tight security conditions. Somalia's government only found out a day ago that Kerry would join the State Department's top Africa official, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on the trip. And the fact that he was only dipping his toe in Somalia, and not venturing past the airport, highlighted just how dangerous and unstable the country remains.

"The next time I come, we have to be able to just walk downtown," Kerry told Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. Kerry held a series of meetings that included both of them, along with regional leaders and civil society groups, before flying back to Kenya a little more than three hours later. "More than 20 years ago, the United States was forced to pull back from your country," Kerry said in a video address to the Somali people, invoking the "Black Hawk Down" debacle when Somali militiamen shot down two US helicopters. "Now we are returning in collaboration with the international community and bearing high hopes but also mixed with ongoing concerns." Read more on the historic meetings in Somalia, which has been without a truly functioning, nationwide government for two-and-a-half decades. (More John Kerry stories.)

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