The U.S. government on Tuesday announced the nomination of America’s first ambassador to Somalia since 1991. Katherine Simonds Dhanani, a long-time diplomat and a Foreign Service veteran, would fill the post that has been vacant since the violent ouster of Somalia’s Siad Barre-led government.
In a statement released Tuesday, Jen Psaki, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman, said that the nomination was a sign of the “deepening relationship” between the two countries.
“Somalia has considerable work ahead to complete its transition to a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous nation. The United States is committed to supporting Somalia on this journey as a steadfast partner,” Psaki said, in the statement.
If confirmed, Dhanani, who is currently the director of regional and security affairs at the state department’s Africa bureau, will lead the U.S. mission to Somalia, which is currently based at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.
“As security conditions permit, we look forward to increasing our diplomatic presence in Somalia and eventually reopening the U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu,” Psaki said.
The embassy in the East African nation was closed in 1991 as the country descended into a protracted civil war that lasted for over a decade, with several armed factions staking claims over different regions. The darkest chapter in ties between the U.S. and Somalia came in 1993, when Somali rebels shot down two Black Hawk helicopters, killing 18 American soldiers. The episode marked the end of the U.S. military mission in the country.
The latest announcement comes just over two years after the U.S. recognized the new U.N.-backed Somali government, which continues to deal with an increasingly violent insurgency by the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group. In the most recent attack by the Sunni Islamist group, militants killed at least 25 people in a hotel in Mogadishu where government ministers and officials were holding Friday prayers.