WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has nominated a career diplomat to be the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia in almost 25 years, filling a post that has been vacant since the Horn of Africa country collapsed into chaos in 1991, forcing the closure of the American embassy.
Obama on Tuesday tapped Foreign Service veteran Katherine Simonds Dhanani for the job, which will be based in neighboring Kenya until security conditions permit the embassy in the Somali capital of Mogadishu to reopen, the State Department said. Dhanani, currently director of regional and security affairs in the department’s Africa bureau, has previously served in India, Mexico and Guyana and has significant African experience, having been posted in Zimbabwe, Gabon, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo.
The State Department said the nomination is a sign of the U.S. commitment to Somalia.
“This historic nomination signals the deepening relationship between the United States and Somalia,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “It also allows us to mark the progress of the Somali people toward emerging from decades of conflict. Somalia has considerable work ahead to complete its transition to a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous nation.”