UN seeks to re-establish international aid operations in Somalia’s war-torn capital

UN seeks to re-establish international aid operations in Somalia’s war-torn capital

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The international aid community must immediately avail itself of the window of opportunity that now exists in Somalia after the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) drove Islamist groups out of Mogadishu, the capital, by setting up substantial operations in the city, a senior United Nations relief official warned today.

“If we don’t act quickly, though, this opportunity may pass,” UN country resident and humanitarian coordinator Eric Laroche said following two high-level UN missions to Mogadishu in the last week.

“The power vacuum could spread and we may see a situation developing in Somalia in which the people once again find themselves living in a lawless society. It’s imperative that we act now, so as not to lose the momentum for reconciliation that currently exists,” he added.

UN agencies are already providing food and other aid to tens of thousands of flood victims and others who have fled the fighting in the south and north of the country.

Given the ongoing relocation of the TFG institutions from Baidoa to Mogadishu, the population has high expectations for reconciliation, security and a resumption of basic social services, such as education and health, in a country that has had no functioning central government since the regime of Muhammad Siad Barre was toppled in 1991. Since then it has been buffeted by successive waves of factional fighting.

“The people are war-weary after more than 15 years of conflict, instability and insecurity,” Mr. Laroche said. “We need to resume as soon as possible high-impact projects in the capital that support stabilization and make a visible difference in peoples’ lives.”

After consulting with the TFG and civil society in Mogadishu, the UN will give priority to training police, demobilizing and reintegrating militias, relocating key institutions, re-establishing representative local authorities, and rehabilitating and managing the harbour and airport.

Other agreed priorities include providing urgently needed basic social services, especially a back-to-school campaign, relocating and assisting displaced persons (IDPs), and reviving employment.

Such initiatives will not only improve lives but can help to bolster stability and reconciliation within Somalia.

The aid community has learned from the past in Somalia and is currently developing a code of conduct which aims to promote behaviours in line with basic humanitarian principles in order to avoid fuelling the re-establishment of the system of coercion and violence perpetrated in the past by the warlords.