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UK Prime Minister David Cameron Tuesday held talks with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is attending a conference on Somalia—his first visit to a Western country since his controversial election in March.
The UK had said it would have limited contact with him, as he had been charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC) with crimes against humanity over his alleged role in fuelling violence after the disputed 2007 election—charges he denies.
Mr Cameron defended meeting Mr Kenyatta, saying he was co-operating with the ICC and Kenya was playing a vital role, along with other regional states, to beat back al-Shabab in Somalia.
Mr Cameron is co-hosting a conference in London with Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to help the East African state rebuild itself. Details of the discussions were not made available Tuesday.
Mr Mohamud told delegates that the cornerstones of a new Somalia had been laid since last year’s conference.
“The political transition has ended and I stand here as the elected president of a sovereign nation,” he said.
The Somali leader told the BBC that he envisaged the withdrawal of the AU force within two years.
“Soon, we are expecting to take over fully the security of Somalia,” he said.
BBC Somalia analyst Mary Harper says Mr Mohamud appears to be optimistic, as he is little more than the president of the capital, Mogadishu.
The Somali army is made up of clan militias with questionable loyalty, she says.
Somalia is also divided into a patchwork of self-governing regions, many of them hostile to the central government.
The breakaway state of Somaliland and the semi-autonomous region of Puntland have boycotted the conference.
Somalia’s government is also totally dependent on foreign aid, and has so far refused to agree to set up a joint oversight mechanism to curb corruption, our correspondent says.
Mr Mohamud said the government had laid the foundations for a new public finance management mechanism to ensure that donor money was properly spent.
Mr Cameron said the need for a joint oversight mechanism would be discussed at the conference.
“You have to do everything you can to make sure it [aid] gets through to the people who need it but it’s particularly tough in a country that hasn’t had a functioning government,” he told the BBC.
“To be fair to the president, he has signed up to an awful lot of new measures and steps to make sure the government is transparent.”
UK aid to Somalia for the next two years amounts to about £80m ($120m).
The UN estimates that nearly 260,000 people died during the famine in Somalia, which is now over.
Pirate attacks have also fallen dramatically in recent years, as international navies patrol Somalia’s waters. Rival groups have battled for control of Somalia since the overthrow of long-serving ruler Siad Barre in 1991.