Warning that there is only a small window of opportunity to avoid a potentially catastrophic conflict in Somalia, a United Nations human rights expert today called on the rival sides to return to peace talks as soon as possible and on other countries to help.
“Even-handed international engagement will be critical to protecting the human rights of Somalis and bringing peace and security to Somalia,” the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the war-ravaged country, Ghanim Alnajjar, said in a statement.
The third round of peace talks in Khartoum, Sudan, between the Union of Islamic Courts, which controls the capital Mogadishu, and the Transitional Federal Parliament based in Baidoa, was scheduled to be held on 30 October but was postponed because the two parties came with some preconditions.
They are now scheduled for mid-December, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Somalia François Lonsény Fall told the Security Council earlier this month.
“I find the recent reports of a possible eruption of conflict very troubling and I urge both sides to return to negotiations as soon as possible as this is the best path to securing peace in the country and the region, and to protecting the human rights of Somali people,” Mr. Alnajjar said.
“As we have seen in the history of Somalia and the region, yet another conflict can only have a catastrophic effect on millions of people… In the coming days and perhaps weeks, the international community will have a small window of opportunity to assist Somalia in avoiding an all-out conflict,” he added.
The Khartoum talks are intended to discuss security and power sharing in the impoverished drought-stricken country, which has been wracked by factional fighting and has had no functioning national government since President Muhammad Siad Barre’s regime was toppled in 1991.
After briefing the Security Council, Mr. Fall told reporters that there was a real danger of the crisis spreading to all the Horn of Africa “because we see there is some interference in the Somalia issue.” He said the UN was doing its best “to recall to all the Member States in the region to respect the maximum restraint, to not interfere directly in the Somalia issue because we know that Somalia can be the theatre of a proxy war between some countries in the region.”