Stephen M. Schwartz, the United States’ first ambassador to the African nation of Somalia in a quarter-century, will meet with the Somali community in Lewiston later this week.
Schwartz will meet with Somali and Somali Bantu residents in a community forum scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Thursday in Callahan Hall at the Lewiston Public Library, Deputy City Administrator Phil Nadeau said in a press release Monday. Schwartz plans to spend the day in Lewiston, but the library meeting represents the best opportunity for the public to interact with him, Nadeau said.
“The ambassador has been traveling around the United States and visiting cities with large populations of Somalians,” Nadeau said. “He is coming here because he would like to see firsthand what is going on in this community.”
Schwartz’s recent visits have been to Somali communities in Portland, Oregon, and Columbus, Ohio.
Somali refugees began arriving in Lewiston in 2001, Nadeau noted.
He said Lewiston’s Somali residents will probably have lots of questions for Schwartz in light of President Trump’s executive order that would impose a 90-day ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries, including Somalia.
Schwartz, a career member of the State Department’s Foreign Service, was sworn in as U.S. ambassador to Somalia on June 27, 2016. His appointment by former President Barack Obama was the first time an American ambassador to the East African nation had been named in 25 years.
The collapse of the Somali government in 1991 precipitated the prolonged U.S. diplomatic absence from that nation. The U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu closed after Somalia’s military regime was overthrown that year and violence erupted between warring clan militias.