As violent clashes resume in Somalia, Security Council calls for political dialogue

As violent clashes resume in Somalia, Security Council calls for political dialogue

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The United Nations Security Council today called for an end to the violence that has recently flared in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, while urging a political dialogue to bring lasting peace to the war-ravaged country, which has not had a functioning government since 1991.

“The members of the Security Council expressed their concern about the resumption of violent clashes in Somalia, especially in the capital, Mogadishu, and outrage over the shooting down of a cargo airplane which took off from the city’s airport,” Ambassador Dumisani S. Kumalo of South Africa, which holds the rotating presidency this month, told reporters in a press statement following closed-door consultations.

The warring factions were called on “to desist from further acts of violence, adhere to international humanitarian law, and afford unimpeded access for relief workers.” Council members also reiterated their call for an immediate, all-inclusive political dialogue, which is essential for the return of peace and stability in Somalia, according to the statement.

Council members voiced particular concern about the humanitarian situation in Somalia, “which continues to deteriorate, greatly increasing the suffering of Somalis,” the President said.

Strongly condemning the desecration of soldiers’ bodies in Mogadishu, the statement pointed out that this is considered a violation of international humanitarian law.

The Council’s press statement came one day after the chief United Nations humanitarian official for Somalia called on all combatants, whether in uniform or not, to desist from further “acts of aggression and to respect civilian life” in Mogadishu.

“This is a tragic situation,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Eric Laroche said in a statement issued in Nairobi, neighbouring Kenya. “Tens of thousands of people are fleeing Mogadishu and civilian casualties are mounting daily.

“The dragging of bodies through the streets is barbaric. This is a gross violation of international humanitarian law, and these kinds of acts must cease immediately,” he added, referring to reports that insurgents dragged soldiers’ bodies through the streets of Mogadishu before burning them on Wednesday.

The UN estimates that more than 40,000 people fled Mogadishu due to conflict in February. Recent statements by the warring parties naming areas to be targeted for security operations are already causing further displacement of civilians. Movement of local UN staff in Mogadishu is severely restricted by the violence, while humanitarian access from outside the city is currently impossible.

Mr. Laroche called for immediate access to all civilians affected by the recent upsurge in violence. “The neutral and impartial humanitarian response desperately required can only take place if there is unimpeded access,” he said.

Violence in the capital has increased since the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), backed by Ethiopian forces, dislodged the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) from Mogadishu and much of the rest of the country at the end of last year. Somalia has been beset by factional violence and lacked a functioning central government since 1991, when the regime of Muhammad Siad Barre was toppled.