Koenders: we need a solid legal basis for reconstruction of Somalia

Speaking on Thursday at an international conference on Somalia in London, foreign minister Bert Koenders argued that the rule of law should be more of a priority in that country’s reconstruction process.

At the conference, participants made agreements with the new Somali government about reconstruction, especially in relation to national security. ‘If Somalia is to defeat the terrorist movement al Shabaab and combat piracy, agreements about the structure of the army and police are badly needed. But an effective security policy is only feasible if it is firmly anchored in law,’ said Mr Koenders.

Currently, the international community is providing at least USD 1.5 billion to the security sector, while at least USD 15 million is being spent on building the justice sector. The Netherlands is contributing to the development of the rule of law in Somalia in a number of ways, including by supporting the construction of prisons and courts. At the conference Mr Koenders announced that the Netherlands would contribute an additional EUR 2 million in legal assistance in the region and support for mobile courts via the United Nations.

While in London the minister also spoke to Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chair of the African Union Commission, and Yusuf Garaad Omar, the Somali foreign minister. Mr Koenders welcomes the progress Somalia has made in moving towards a more democratic and prosperous society. ‘With our support and the right attitude, the present government has already taken steps in the right direction and will hopefully continue down this path in the future,’ the minister remarked. ‘We need to make clear agreements with each other, for example on combating piracy. The country must adopt laws that make piracy a criminal offence and it must create a Somali coast guard.’

For years the Netherlands has been actively involved in combating piracy off the coast of Somalia. This year, too, the Netherlands will contribute a ship to Atalanta, the EU’s anti-piracy mission.

The conference was overshadowed by the looming prospect of famine in Somalia. Drought and food shortages are threatening to undo recent positive developments: three million people are acutely in need of aid, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced from their homes. This year, the Netherlands is contributing over EUR 9 million to address this humanitarian crisis.

Mr Koenders was recently in the region on a working visit to Kenia, where he met with Somalia experts and local partners. ‘It’s vital to support this region and work together to rebuild a country like Somalia,’ the minister said. ‘Instability there has impact on us in the Netherlands as well. We are committed to addressing the fundamental causes of conflict, piracy, and migration.’