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Somalia hires US lobbyists to help get more aid

The government of Somalia is paying a US lobbying firm Sh40 million ($400,000) through the end of this year to help it gain renewed funding for the country's army and to lift the Trump administration's ban on Somalis' travel to the US.

The government of Somalia is paying a US lobbying firm Sh40 million ($400,000) through the end of this year to help it gain renewed funding for the country’s army and to lift the Trump administration’s ban on Somalis’ travel to the US.

The agreement with the Sonoran Policy Group (SPG) was signed earlier this month by Somalia’s United Nations Ambassador Abukar Osman and by Christian Bourge, executive director of the lobbying firm based in the state of Arizona.

SPG, which previously lobbied in Washington on behalf of the Kenyan government, includes principals who have held posts in the Trump administration.

In a disclosure form recently filed with the US Justice Department, SPG says it is “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.”

Specifically, the firm commits to arrange talks with White House officials and lawmakers aimed at ending a partial US suspension of funding for the Somali National Army.

Concerns over rampant corruption within the Somali government and military led the US last year to freeze food and fuel aid to most of the country’s armed forces.

Somalia’s contract with SPG also calls for the lobbyists to help “reverse the inclusion of Somalia in the travel-ban countries.”

The US Supreme Court upheld in June the Trump administration’s ban on visits to the US by nationals of five Muslim-majority countries, including Somalia, as well as by citizens of North Korea and Venezuela.

SPG will also facilitate a future visit to the US by Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, the agreement stipulates.

The 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.”

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 potential for debt forgiveness.”

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