MOGADISHU (Halbeeg News) – The government of Somalia has hired U.S. based lobbying firm to boost its image abroad and strengthen its ties with the government of the United States.
In an agreement signed the country’s United Nations Ambassador Abukar Osman on behalf of the government earlier this month, Somalia agreed to pay Sonoran Policy Group (SPG) $400,000 through the end of this year.
The firm will help Somalia gain renewed funding for the Somali National Army (NSA) and to lift the Trump administration’s ban on Somalis’ travel to the US.
Late last year, the United States suspended food and fuel aid for most of Somalia’s armed forces over corruption concerns.
Christian Bourge, executive director of the lobbying firm which is headquartered in the state of Arizona said SPG was “delighted to have the opportunity to leverage our disruptive global diplomacy, marketing, branding and communications as well as public affairs subject matter expertise on behalf of the Federal Government of Somalia.
According to the revealed, SPG will have to arrange talks with White House officials and lawmakers aimed at ending a partial US suspension of funding for the Somali National Army.
US suspension of aid came after the Somali military repeatedly failed to account for food and fuel, according to private correspondence between the US and Somali governments seen by Reuters in December last year.
“During recent discussions between the United States and the Federal Government of Somalia, both sides agreed that the Somali National Army had failed to meet the standards for accountability for US assistance,” a State Department official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
“We are adjusting US assistance to SNA units, with the exception of units receiving some form of mentorship, to ensure that US assistance is being used effectively and for its intended purpose,” the official said.
Working on lifting travel-ban on Somalis
This contract, which provides for payments to SPG of Sh 10 million ($100,000) per month for four months, entails other general work by the lobbying group to enhance Somalia’s image in the US
“In conjunction with our digital studio,” SPG informs the Somali government, “our team will expand your brand reach and enhance the public perception of your country while helping you tell the positive story about Somalia and your status as an important regional player.”
Somalia’s contract with SPG also calls for the lobbyists to help “reverse the inclusion of Somalia in the travel-ban country
Somalia is one of three African countries whose citizens are banned from travelling to the United States.
In June, the ban was upheld by U.S. Supreme court and the Trump administration implemented the decision to ban nationals of five Muslim-majority countries.
Among those affected by the ban was Former Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud who was denied to travelled to the U.S. in March this year.
Future visit to US by President Farmajo
The parties indicate in the lobbying disclosure form that they intend to continue their arrangement beyond December in accordance with financial terms yet to be specified.
As part of this long-term representation, SPG says it will strive to influence the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to reduce Somalia’s debt load and “determine the potential for debt forgiveness.”
SPG will also facilitate a future visit to the US by Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, the agreement stipulates.
The farm commits to convince the U.S. to extend an official invitation to President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo for talks with White House officials.