Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota’s 5th Congressional district wrote to United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, on Friday, May 15 2015 thanking the Secretary for visiting Somalia, and expressing his concern that he did not bring up the remittance crisis in his remarks in Somalia.
The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Kerry:
I write to thank you for your historic visit to Somalia. Your visit represents the United States’ commitment to a strong and stable Somalia. As your efforts to support Somalia continue, I urge you to address growing concerns regarding remittances and refugees.
Somalia is emerging from two decades of conflict and famine. Much of the success that Somalia has seen is owed to the support of the Somali diaspora who send lifesaving money to their loved ones in Somalia; these remittances account for as much as forty percent of Somalia’s GDP. I am concerned that remittances to Somalia were not addressed in your visit to Mogadishu.
The flow of remittances to Somalia remains an urgent humanitarian and national security issue. I ask for your ongoing commitment to find immediate and long-term solutions to address this crisis. I also urge you to take appropriate steps to ensure that recent horrific events in Kenya do not unnecessarily worsen the situation for Somalis throughout the region.
Following the terrible attack at Garissa University College, the Kenyan government wants to take decisive steps to increase security. This is a necessary and justifiable response, however it is important that the response from the Kenyan government target the terrorist groups that committed these acts of violence and not the entire Somali community.
Last month the Kenyan government suspended the licenses of thirteen money transmitters serving Somalia. This is having a disruptive impact on Somali refugees in Kenya and many aid organizations have been left scrambling to find ways to maintain uninterrupted finance-related support for their humanitarian operations. The suspension of these licenses, along with the call for closure or relocation of the Dadaab refugee complex, could have a devastating humanitarian impact. I ask that you work with Kenya, the United Nations, and other international partners to avoid actions that would further destabilize the region.
The closure of Somali money services businesses in Kenya and the limited service to Somalia from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia has created a perfect storm to drive back the recent gains in Somalia and the fight against Al Shabaab. Just last week, one of the few remaining U.S. banks serving Somali money services businesses (MSBs) closed all of its Somali MSB accounts.
In your remarks to the Somali people in Mogadishu last week you said Somalia is rebounding and, “…new life has returned to the streets of Mogadishu, Kismayo, Baidoa, and Garowe, and elsewhere. New businesses have opened and diaspora communities are returning to take advantage of new economic opportunities and to help rebuild their country.” With your leadership we can help Somalia continue on this track to greater prosperity, peace, and stability; but if the remittances lifeline remains closed it will threaten the progress the Somali people have fought so hard to make.
Please make the restoration of the remittances pipeline a top priority of your agency. I stand ready to work with you to improve the humanitarian and security situation in East Africa and to continue efforts to provide the vital remittance lifeline to the Somali people.