Hillary Clinton with Somali presidentFor the first time since 1991, the United States is officially recognizing the government of Somalia, a country in chaos since the 1990’s and overrun by warlords.

President Hassan Sheikh was welcomed at the State Department in Washington, DC yesterday for an official ceremony with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, before his afternoon meeting with President Obama at the White House.

When the Obama administration first took office in January 2009, al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda-linked terrorist group, controlled most of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capitol, along with the southern and central parts of the country. The nation had not had a functioning government in nearly two decades.

Sec. Clinton said securing Somalia had been a personal priority for her. And, indeed, the U.S. invested $650 million dollars to support and train African Union troops to fight the terrorists, $360 million in humanitarian aid and more than $175 million to help rebuild the economic, security and civil institutions.

”I am very delighted [with the recognition],” President Sheikh told the Voice of America through a translator. “It is a step forward and a diplomatic achievement for the government I lead and for the Somali people. This recognition will pave the way for us to rejoin international bodies and other places that we have been absent for so long.”

“Progress was halting at times, but it was unmistakable,” said Clinton. “And today, thanks to the extraordinary partnership between the leaders and people of Somalia, and with international supporters, al-Shabaab has been driven from Mogadishu and every other major city in Somalia.”

“Today, for the first time in two decades, this country has a representative government with a new president, a new parliament, a new prime minister, and a new constitution.”

(READ more from the State Department)

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