China reopens Somalia embassy after 23-year hiatus

Shut down in 1991 during civil war, reopening diplomatic outpost another sign of widening presence in Africa

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 July, 2014, 11:09am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 July, 2014, 6:33pm


China said it would re-open its embassy in Somalia 23 years after evacuating its diplomats as the East African nation plunged into civil war.

The decision came after Somalia established its first government and parliament in 21 years, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. He said Beijing planned to send a delegation to Somalia this week.

"Somalia has entered a new stage of its peace process," Hong told reporters at a regular briefing. "That brings a new opportunity for the development of China-Somalia relations."

Yesterday, the newly appointed Chinese envoy Wei Hongtian presented his credentials to Somali Foreign Minister Abdirahman Mohamed Beileh as the first step in reopening the embassy.

Chinese diplomats left Somalia in January 1991 after a long-time dictator was overthrown and warlords turned on each other, plunging the impoverished country into chaos.

"We welcome the appointment. ... Our relationship with China has always been strong and will further be strengthened by the reopening of the embassy in Mogadishu," Beileh told reporters in Mogadishu.

Wei said that despite the embassy's shutdown decades ago, China's support to the country had not stopped.

The United States announced earlier in June that it would appoint an ambassador to Somalia but said it had no immediate plans to re-open its embassy in the capital, Mogadishu, which has been beset by violence and deadly bombings spurred by the militant network al-Shabab.

Few non-African countries maintain embassies in Somalia. Britain last year opened its mission there for the first time since 1991, becoming the first country within the European Union to do so.

China has a large presence on the African continent, with Chinese companies building roads, airports and other infrastructure. Beijing has opened more embassies and commercial offices in recent years. Last year, China-Africa trade reached US$210 billion, according to official figures.

With additional reporting from Xinhua