Somali president Mohamud's plea to diaspora in Minnesota

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on 17/1/13 President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud joined US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington as she announced official recognition for Somalia

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has given a rousing speech in Minnesota, home to the largest Somali population in the US.

He spoke of a new era to the 4,000-strong audience, and urged Somalis to help rebuild their war-torn homeland.

He was in Washington on Thursday to hear the US officially recognise Somalia after more than 20 years.

The move could pave the way for US and international economic aid for the Horn of Africa nation.

'Milestone'

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud spoke mostly in Somali to the cheering, flag-waving crowd at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Start Quote

I wanted a fair and balanced president for all the Somali people. He has set off on the wrong foot”

End Quote Roda Rabi Protest organiser

He told them that he would focus on security, the economy and the judicial system in his bid to rebuild Somalia.

And he urged his audience to help, either by returning to Somalia or from their homes in the US.

It was "the beginning of a new foundation", he said in English.

However, not everyone was celebrating. Some 50 people gathered outside the convention centre to protest about his visit.

"I celebrated [his election], but his policies are not going the way they were supposed to," protest organiser Roda Rabi told Minneapolis' Star Tribute.

"I wanted a fair and balanced president for all the Somali people. He has set off on the wrong foot."

Mr Mohamud took office in 2012 after winning the first election of its kind since Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.

A relative newcomer to politics, he is not associated with the violence and corruption of the past but he faces enormous challenges reuniting a country torn apart by two decades of civil conflict.

Minnesota is believed to be home to some 70,000 people from Somalia. The authorities say more than 20 young men have travelled back from Minnesota to Somalia in recent years to join the the militant group al-Shabab, which had control of large parts of the country.

Mrs Clinton on Thursday described US official recognition of Somalia as a "milestone".

"It is not the end of the journey, but it is an important milestone towards that end," she said after talks with Mr Mohamud.

The US never formally cut diplomatic ties with Somalia.

But the 1993 Black Hawk Down incident, when 18 American servicemen were killed after militia fighters shot two US military helicopters out of the sky, marked the country's descent into anarchy.

The US does not currently have an embassy in Somalia, but officials indicated that was a possibility in the future.

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