Britain Names New Ambassador to Somalia

Posted February 2nd, 2012 at 11:15 am (UTC-5)
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Britain has appointed its first ambassador to war-torn Somalia in more than two decades.

The announcement came Thursday, as British Foreign Secretary William Hague made a landmark visit to the Horn of Africa country, where he spoke with reporters after meeting with President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

“The first visit to Somalia by a British foreign secretary in 20 years, and also a huge pleasure to bring a British ambassador who has handed over his credentials to the president,'' Hague said.

Matt Baugh will serve as London's new senior envoy to Somalia. But British officials say he will be based in neighboring Kenya until security conditions allow for an embassy to be built in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Hague said the appointment signals Britain's “long-term commitment to Somalia.”

His visit comes ahead of a conference later this month in London that aims to come up with a comprehensive approach to end years of instability in country.

Britain's ambassador left Somalia 21 years ago as the country descended into chaos following the collapse of the country's last stable government.

More recently, a U.N.-supported transitional government has struggled to contain an Islamist insurgency and deal with a famine that has ravaged much of the southern part of the country.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also made a historic visit to the Somali capital in December, during which he announced that the U.N. would move its political office to Mogadishu from Kenya after a 17-year absence.