H.E. Abdulkhadir Amin Sheikh, Ambassador of Somalia

Ambassador Abdulkhadir Amin Sheikh of the Federal Republic of Somalia and Dean of the Arab Diplomatic Corps in Kuwait has been heading his country’s mission here for the last twenty-five years. A veteran diplomat, who has been in the Foreign Services of his country for well over three decades, Ambassador Amin Sheikh began his diplomatic career with a posting in Tunisia.

After serving in Tunis for six years, first as First Counselor, then Charge d’Affaires and then as Somalia’s Head of Mission to the Arab League, he was assigned as Ambassador to Kuwait. The absence of a formal and stable government in Somalia, during most of his tenure in Kuwait, meant that the ambassador had to pursue his diplomatic duties without recourse to any of the support or guidance that any diplomat could normally expect from his home country. The fact that he managed his ambassadorial responsibilities with élan and in addition took on the obligations of being Dean of the Arab Diplomatic Corps is an accolade to the man, and his commitment and loyalty to serving his country.

Speaking to The Times in an exclusive interview Ambassador Amin Sheikh attributed his successful tenure in Kuwait to the steadfast support from His Highness the Amir and the Government of Kuwait.  “During the past twenty-five years, if I have managed to effectively represent my country in Kuwait, the credit would go to His Highness the Amir, who first as Foreign Minister, then as Prime Minister and now as the Amir has always had a special place in his heart for the people and nation of Somalia. Evidence of this unique care and affection is the personal attention he has paid to the successful functioning of our embassy here, as well as his benevolence to the people of Somalia during natural disasters and calamities.”

“Most recently, during the drought and famine that ravaged the country in 2011, it was the Amir’s direct initiative and immediate directive that led to Kuwait government air-lifting the first batch of food aid to Somalia. It is noteworthy that it was only after the first plane-load of food, medicine and other aid from Kuwait landed and unloaded safely in Mogadishu that nations around the world, who were hesitant in sending aid due to security factors, realized the capital was secure enough to dispatch aid. Somalia will forever remember the kind and noble gestures of His Highness the Amir, the government and people of Kuwait,” said the ambassador.

Tracing the long and distinguished relations between Somalia and Kuwait, the ambassador noted, “Strong bonds of friendship between people of our two countries go back centuries, to a time long before the discovery of oil. For hundreds of years, seafaring traders and merchants from Kuwait and the region visited the East African coast and ports in Somalia to trade in goods and commodities such as incense (bukhour), livestock and timber for constructions and boat-building. People of Somalia are proud of this extensive association and the strong relationship that continues unabated to this day as evidenced by the support, cooperation and coordination that exists between our two countries.”

Explaining that the bridge of friendship and bilateral solidarity between the two governments was cemented through Kuwait’s participation in the economic progress and development of Somalia, the ambassador added, “As far back as 1975, the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development has been a keen partner in financing and boosting development projects in Somalia.

However, during the several decades of turmoil and political instability that wrecked my country, Kuwait Fund had understandably reined in its investments and drawn back from its economic development projects.” Over the years, Kuwait Fund has extended tens of millions of dinars in loans at concessionary terms for various projects in Somalia. Some of these projects include a power generation project in Mogadishu in 1975, a livestock development project in 1976, agricultural irrigation project in 1981 and an extension to the Mogadishu power generation and distribution project in 1982.

During the period from mid 2010 to late 2012, the deployment and successes on the ground of Somali troops, backed by those from neighboring countries and the African Union, helped usher in a semblance of peace and quiet to a country ravaged by civil war and natural calamities for nearly three decades.

The ensuing relative calm paved the way for a roadmap political process that led to the drafting of a provisional constitution, the appointment of a 275-member Parliament, dissolution of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the establishment of the Federal Government of Somalia. Under the leadership of His Excellency Hassan Sheikh Mohamud the President of Somalia, the country is now poised to embark on a path to peace and progress.

The ambassador clarified that following the return of peace and stability to his country, Somalia is looking forward to investments by institutions and people from Kuwait. “During his recent visit to Kuwait the State Minister for Presidency Affairs, H.E. Farah Sheikh Abdulkadir, handed a letter to His Highness the Amir, from His Excellency the President of Somalia, on enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries and boosting investments. The State Minister also discussed with high-ranking government officials the need to reinvigorate the activities of Kuwait Fund, stressing that the investments were essential for the reconstruction and rebuilding of infrastructure in Somalia, and to assist in stabilizing and promoting growth and economic development in the country.”

Promoting the investment potential of Somalia to businesses in Kuwait, the Somali diplomat went on to say, “There are immense investment and lucrative trade opportunities opening up in every possible business sector of Somalia. For instance, the coastline of Somalia that extends for over 3,000 kilometers along the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden is ideally situated and exceptionally suited for development of various maritime industries, as almost fifty percent of the world’s maritime trade passes through this region. The agriculture and livestock sectors also holds vast potential for investment; with over eight million hectares of cultivable land and prospects to rear millions of livestock, including cattle, sheep and camels, the country could develop to become a viable alternative to countries currently exporting food and meat products to the region. Opportunities for investment also exist in the infrastructure and construction sector, as well as in the hotel and tourism industry.”

Reiterating that people to people contacts and interactions were always a strong point in relations between the two countries, the ambassador added, “Somalis is are one of the oldest expatriate communities in Kuwait; some of them have been in the country for over fifty years and have developed enduring social and cultural ties with local people. While previously there was a sizeable population of Somalis in Kuwait, the numbers have dwindled in recent times, due to various factors, many of which are of our own making. Nevertheless, Kuwait has always welcomed Somali people and evidence of this is the fact that Somali children are able to enroll in Kuwaiti schools and colleges.”

Inducing Kuwaitis to invest in a country where state institutions are still in a nascent stage and where society is only beginning to heal from decades of war and strife is no doubt a Herculean task. As the ambassador concluded his interview it was quite evident that though he was fully conscious of the huge undertaking he faced, in trying to convince people and businesses on prospects of stability in his country, he was optimistic about the future.

“Developing state infrastructure, erecting a firm political system and establishing an inclusive reconciliation process that ensures long-term peace and stability are doubtless daunting tasks, but with effective international help and support from brotherly regional countries like Kuwait, I am sure we can rebuild Somalia into a strong and independent nation capable of once again standing tall among the comity of nations.”

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