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Somalia: UN envoy concerned at rising tensions between Puntland and Somaliland

Somalia: UN envoy concerned at rising tensions between Puntland and Somaliland

Displaced arrive in town of Galkayo (file photo)
Reacting to rising tensions between Somalia’s autonomous Puntland region and self-declared Somaliland, the senior United Nations envoy to the country today called on all sides to allow humanitarian activities to continue unimpeded.

“These tensions threaten not only to undermine the political stability and economic progress that both sides have so painstakingly achieved, but also international support for their efforts,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, said in a statement released in Nairobi.

“I would like to appeal to the authorities in both Puntland and Somaliland to immediately cease all hostile actions, refrain from any provocative acts and take all necessary steps to reduce tensions in the Sool and Sanaag regions,” Mr. Fall said.

He appealed to both sides to ensure unrestricted access to all humanitarian efforts and not to impede United Nations humanitarian activities.

Recent fighting in Somalia between the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces and insurgents has left hundreds dead and wounded, while tens of thousands of civilians have fled Mogadishu as a result of the conflict, Mr. Fall today told a meeting in Nairobi of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional organization that has been involved in efforts to stabilize Somalia.

“All the hospitals in the city and its environs have been overwhelmed with the rising number of casualties,” he added.

The envoy called for a political solution, and encouraged the TFG to ensure that a planned National Reconciliation Congress be “as inclusive as possible.”

On Thursday, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, voiced deep concern over the dire situation facing the displaced, who have been harassed, threatened, raped and robbed.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that aid workers are being thwarted in their efforts to assist internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable groups by the deteriorating security situation, harassment, intimidation and even detention.

The UN refugee agency has been begun delivery of 28 tons of relief supplies to help up to 20,000 people who fled recent fighting in Mogadishu, spokesman Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva today.

“Thousands of displaced Somalis have spent nearly two weeks without proper food, water or shelter,” he said. “Families with no relatives or clan links in the area continue to live in the open, or under trees. The need for shelter material is now more pressing because of the rainy season which normally begins this month.”

UNHCR has additional stocks for up to 5,000 families in Mogadishu and smaller quantities in the town of Marka. But Mr. Redmond warned that obstacles remain. “We are still facing difficulties in bringing items out of the warehouses for distribution to thousands of families who fled from the capital,” he said, adding that “insecurity in parts of Mogadishu has continued to jeopardize humanitarian access to the Somali capital and surrounding regions, making the plight of civilians all the more desperate.”

About 128,000 Somalis are believed to have fled from Mogadishu since the beginning of February. Nearly 90,000 of them have sought safety in the adjacent provinces of Middle and Lower Shabelle, according to UNHCR, which estimate that 18,000 people have settled in the district of Afgooye. And up to 4,000 people may be recently displaced in Baidoa.

These figures “may still rise as people continue to flee Mogadishu,” Mr. Redmond warned.