UN official expresses optimism towards Somalia’s journey to stabilization

UN official expresses optimism towards Somalia’s journey to stabilization

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Somalia currently is at a “turning point,” with the population buoyed by a new Government and hoping to take advantage of the opportunity to bring peace and stability to a country that has had no functioning government since the regime of Muhammad Siad Barre was toppled in 1991, a senior United Nations official said today.

Since the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) routed the Union of the Islamic Courts (UIC) almost three months ago, “the federal Government has a roadmap,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator Eric Laroche told a press briefing at UN Headquarters. “They know what to do.”

The people, he said, can be reassured of the viability of newly-built institutions and the accountability of Government authorities. The Government “can be judged” by the people for their performance, and even if those running institutions are replaced, the institutions will remain intact, he added.

Thus, stabilization should be a ground-up process beginning at the community level and extending all the way up to the national level. “If you don’t have a boss, no one is going to solve your problem,” he said, citing the importance of the new system of electing district level officials, which he hopes will ensure stability.

The international community must also play its part, Mr. Laroche urged, saying that “we need to convince people that things can change in Somalia” and support fledgling institutions. He expressed hope that the thousands of expected African Union (AU) peacekeepers would be deployed to Somalia as soon as possible.

Security is paramount for the country to attain a lasting peace, and law enforcement mechanisms, namely the prisons and the police force, must be strengthened immediately, he said. The UN has supplied 3,000 uniforms to members of the police, which previously had none. Also today, the UN sent 18 vehicles to the capital Mogadishu to allow law enforcement officials to patrol the city.

However, the Coordinator stressed, at the same time as the police force is being revamped, it is absolutely essential to demobilize and reintegrate former militia members.

Mr. Laroche also mentioned a 5-day national reconciliation workshop, an initiative of the independent national reconciliation commission, held in Mogadishu that was attended by hundreds of people, representing a cross-section of society, including women, youth and Islamists. He voiced hope that such attempts to broker peace would be successful, and pointed out the courage and determination of participants who braved mortar and grenade attacks to attend the meetings.

In a related development, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, François Lonsény Fall, today informed members of the international community from Nairobi of what had transpired earlier this week in his meeting with members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Fall said that he urged the OIC to persuade the UIC to accept the rule of the TFG and join efforts towards genuine national reconciliation and also to contribute funds to assist the new Somali Government, which has appealed for $544 million.

He also told the OIC that the UN is pressing the TFG to bring religious leaders, clan elders and civil society members, among others, together to move the reconciliation process forward.