European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (L) and Somali's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (R) arrive at a conference called
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (L) and Somali's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (R) arrive at a conference called "New Deal in Somalia" in Brussels (Reuters)

Somalia's al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab rebels have dismissed a key donor conference in Brussels as "Belgian waffle".

Diplomats and international officials are discussing a "New Deal for Somalia", to release hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild the wartorn country after two decades of conflict.

Architects of the deal claimed that £3.2bn would be needed over the next three years, leading up to Somalia's first proper elections in 2016.

"Somalia has been in an emergency state for 22 years," the country's west-backed president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has said. "Brussels will be the foundation for the recovery of this country."

The UK's ambassador to Somalia, Neil Wigan, said the conference was "a major milestone", AFP news agency reports.

'A waste of effort'

However al-Shabab, which is fighting to oust the 57-year-old Mohamud, said in a statement on Twitter that "the billions promised will most likely be unpaid, the paltry sum given to the apostates [Somali government], will be lost in corruption".

"It's a bit like Belgian Waffles: sweet on the outside but really has not much substance to it. They are just hollow promises of Kufr [Arabic word for infidels]" the group said.

"Conferences never really had any meaningful impact on the ground here in Somalia and this one will be no different. It's a waste of effort."

Somalia is regularly listed as the world's worst failed state. Donor money is handled by the UN, foreign aid agencies, and charities.

President Mohamud said he was optimistic about the reform process. "Reform is a continuous process - it's not yet there," he said.