MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Somalia's president over the weekend received the country's first pieces of mail in more than two decades. It's the kind of small but hopeful development that leaders meeting in London on Tuesday want to see more of.
Britain and Somalia on Tuesday co-host an international donors' conference that aims to provide international support for the Somali government as it continues to leave behind two decades of conflict.
Though Mogadishu still suffers from intermittent terror attacks by the Islamic extremists of al-Shabab, including a car bomb Sunday that killed at least seven people, the capital is much more peaceful today than in years past, when deadly battles took place daily.
The weekend mail delivery to Mogadishu came courtesy of the United Nations Postal Administration. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent letters to Somalia's president.
"It's a victory and a sign of development. We have received the first letters now, and we are going to process sending letters soon," said Abdullahi Elmoge Nor, Somalia's Minister of Information, Telecoms and Transport.
At the London conference Somalia is set to share its plans to develop the country's security forces, justice sector and financial management systems. International donors are likely to pledge aid to help get Somalia's plans moving. Britain said in February it would give 3 million pounds ($4.7 million), with a large chunk intended to help train Somali lawmakers.
Eradicating sexual violence — a cause championed by British Foreign Secretary William Hague — will also be on the agenda. In the run-up to the conference Britain and the United Arab Emirates announced 2 million pounds ($3.1 million) in joint funding to help tackle sexual violence in Somalia.
Britain's Foreign Office said it expected representatives of "nearly 50 governments," as well as groups like the United Nations, the African Union, the World Bank, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League. Also expected to attend is Kenya's new President Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces charges at the International Criminal Court for allegations connected to 2007-08 post-election violence.
After Sunday's attack in Mogadishu, Britain's Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds said the bombing demonstrated the importance for the Somali government and international partners to work together to combat extremism. Gunmen and suicide bombers attacked Mogadishu's Supreme Court complex last month, killing more than 35 people.
Despite the attacks, new construction is up in the capital. New restaurants have opened and citizens are participating in sports leagues, which had been banned by the extremists. Britain last month opened an embassy in Mogadishu for the first time in 20 years.
Human Rights Watch urged international donors meeting in London to make accountability and women's rights a priority. It also said the government should exclude power brokers who violate human rights from any role in the security forces.
"International goodwill for the new Somali leadership and its proposed reforms should not mean unqualified support," said David Mepham, Britain director at Human Rights Watch.
The Somalia NGO Consortium — a group of civil society actors — noted that Somalia's new constitution requires the implementation of federalism but has not yet done so.
The northern Somali region of Somaliland — a semiautonomous region that has been agitating for years for independence — is not attending the conference despite the fact that furthering dialogue between the governments of Mogadishu and Somaliland had been one of the goals of the conference.
Associated Press reporters Cassandra Vinograd in London and Jason Straziuso in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this report.