U.S. Secretary, John Kerry made a surprise trip to Somalia today becoming the first American Secretary of State to visit the war-ravaged Horn of Africa to meet with Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, Reuters has reported.
Details of the trip were based on a dispatch from a reporter who was traveling with Kerry.
The African nation has been struggling to rebuild itself after two decades of war and battle against al-Shabaab militants.
"The next time I come, we have to be able to just walk downtown," Kerry said as he met President Mohamud, highlighting a positive tone for the future relations of both countries.
"Downtown Mogadishu is very different now than it was two years ago," the Somalia president replied, asserting that security was steadily improving and describing Kerry's flying visit as a "great moment" for Somalia.
Kerry's surprise visit comes as the Kenyan government threatened to close the world’s largest refugee camp to date, located in the town of Dadaab, and implied to send around 350,000 refugees back to Somalia last week.
Both Washington and the United Nations have said they were concerned about Nairobi's decision to close the camp in a bid to stem militant attacks.
Kerry said he received assurances from President Uhuru Kenyatta that no unilateral action would take place to close Dadaab as the U.S. and others try to make Somalia safe enough to accommodate large-scale refugee returns.
“The trip will send a strong signal to al-Shabaab that we are not turning our backs on the Somali people and will continue to engage with Somalia until we bring al-Shabaab terror to an end", a senior U.S. State Department official told reporters.
“The United States and Western nations pour aid into Somalia to help reconstruction and prevent it sliding back into the hands of al-Shabaab, who still use territory they control to launch attacks there and on neighboring states, such as Kenya,” he added.
Kerry will use the trip to thank the African Union peace-making force AMISOM for fighting al-Shabaab. With the backing of U.S. unmanned drone strikes, AMISOM and Somalia troops have driven al-Shabaab out of most of their strongholds, Reuters has reported.