Somalia: UN envoy urges government to expand its rule, prevent return of warlords
The top United Nations envoy for Somalia travelled to Mogadishu, the capital, today for high-level talks with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), urging it to seize this “rare opportunity” to expand its authority after the recent ouster of Islamic groups and prevent a resurgence of the warlords who tore the country apart for the past 16 years.
“The TFG should work to establish an effective administration at district and regional levels,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative François Lonsény Fall after meeting with President Abdullahi Yusuf at Villa Somalia and later with civil society leaders.
Until Ethiopian-backed government forces pushed the Union of the Islamic Courts (UIC) out of Mogadishu and much of the rest of the country last month, the TGF had been isolated in the provincial town of Baidoa in a country that has had no functioning central government since the regime of Muhammad Siad Barre was toppled in 1991.
Mr. Fall urged the TFG to avoid a power vacuum in the areas it holds. “In the process, it should avoid the reinstallation of former warlords who have lost credibility nationally and within the international community,” he said.
He stressed that the dialogue for peace and reconciliation should embrace all national stakeholders. “These must include clan and religious leaders, the business community, women’s groups and other representatives of civil society - everyone who has expressed their commitment to peace and reconciliation in keeping with the principles of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Charter,” he said.
Since the ouster of the UIC, which seized control of Mogadishu in June and progressively extended its control, UN officials from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon down underscored the historic opportunity the country now has to restore peace and stability.
Mr. Fall noted that Ethiopia had recently repeated its desire to withdraw troops quickly and that Kenya, as Chair of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an east African group, this week reported that several African countries had expressed their intention to join Uganda in providing forces for a peace support and training mission.
“I hope this will happen quickly and that an African Union and IGAD force can take on the role of protecting the TFG and training its army,” he said. “I am hopeful that the international community will also come in behind these efforts with the necessary funding and technical support for the operation.”
He encouraged representatives of civil society to help build a conducive atmosphere for an inclusive dialogue towards reconciliation. “Civil society has an especially important role to play in Somalia’s revival today,” he said. “Its actions can reach beyond clan and personal interests and promote the well-being of all Somalis.”
Mr. Fall appealed to all parties to recognize that the current conflict had imposed an additional humanitarian burden on the civilian population. “Many thousands of people are in desperate circumstances, including some 440,000 people displaced by flooding in the south,” he said. “The United Nations needs secure access to meet their needs.
These people need our help and they need it now.”
Yesterday the UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Eric Laroche, urged the international aid community to set up substantial operations in Mogadishu, and 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.