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International grouping, including UN, says Somalia has ‘historic opportunity’

International grouping, including UN, says Somalia has ‘historic opportunity’

Meeting today for the first time since last week’s heavy fighting in Somalia, which may have given the Transitional Government of the long-troubled country the chance to establish its full authority, the International Contact Group for Somalia – which includes the United Nations – called the current moment “a historic opportunity.”

In a communiqué issued in Nairobi, the Group welcomed a commitment by Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf to inclusive governance and the prevention of a resurgence of warlord activities.

The communiqué also stressed the importance of immediately launching a process of political dialogue and reconciliation in the Horn of Africa country, which has not had a functioning government since the regime of Muhammad Siad Barre was toppled in 1991.

Last month the Security Council adopted a resolution authorizing the creation of an African protection and training mission in Somalia to help protect its transitional federal institutions, and today’s communiqué emphasized the urgent need for that force.

To be known as IGASOM, the new force is to be set up by the African Union (AU) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an east African group, and will have an initial mandate of six months. No countries bordering Somalia will be able to deploy troops.

Today’s meeting of the International Contact Group for Somalia was held following a wave of heavy fighting between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) – backed by Ethiopian troops – and the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) last month. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Francois Lonsény Fall, represented the UN at the meeting.

Yesterday, in a statement released by his spokesperson, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all sides in Somalia to “seize the moment and end the bloodshed” and urged the rapid deployment of IGASOM.