Somalia, Kenya sign first trade deal in 14 years

Reuters

Somalia signs historic trade pact with Kenya

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

NAIROBI, Kenya (Reuters) — Somalia’s fledgling government signed a broad bilateral trade agreement with neighboring Kenya on Tuesday, the first since warlords overthrew military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and plunged the country into chaos.

The deal is the latest sign of efforts by the lawless Horn of Africa country to rebuild its economy after an interim government was formed late last year in the relative stability of Kenya.

"The very act that we are now witnessing shows the degree of confidence the international community has got in the new institutions in Somalia," said Somali Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullahi Sheekh Ismail.

The broad agreement, signed by Ismail and his Kenyan counterpart Chirau Ali Mwakwere covers education, health, the economy, immigration, marine transport and security.

Mwakwere told a news conference the two parties had yet to nail down the specifics of the agreement.

"This agreement will see the rebirth of our development cooperation that was halted 14 years ago," he said.

The deal comes two weeks after Somalia said it would be ready to start offering oil, gas and mineral concessions in a few months, opening up the economy to foreign investors.

Despite the lure of untapped natural resources, insecurity fueled by rival warlords and their militias remains a major concern for investors to Somalia.

The government was in the process of establishing security forces to bring law and order back to the country of 10 million, Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Gedi said.

The 53-member African Union has pledged a peacekeeping force to help the government relocate to a permanent base.

"It is our responsibility to empower our national security forces because even if the African Union provides troops for a peace mission in Somalia, it will never be sustainable," Gedi said.

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