Security Council and Ban call for naval and air action against Somali pirates

7 October 2008

The Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called today for more international air and naval forces off the pirate-ridden coast of Somalia to ensure that United Nations food aid gets through to more than 3 million people threatened with starvation.

In a resolution adopted unanimously, the Council called on States with naval vessels and military aircraft operating off the Somali coast to use “the necessary means” against acts of piracy, while Mr. Ban warned that more Somalis will die unless countries provide the forces needed to ensure that the UN World Food Programme (WFP) can deliver its aid.

“In Somalia, 3 million people are in danger of starving,” Mr. Ban said in introductory remarks to a news conference at UN Headquarters in New York. “Nearly 90 per cent of the food that feeds them arrives from the sea aboard WFP ships.

“As you know, pirates are terrorizing Somalia’s coastal waters,” he said, noting that the Dutch, French, Danish and Canadian navies have been escorting WFP ships safely into the ports, but that Canada’s tour of duty ends on 23 October.

“As yet, no nation has volunteered to take Canada’s place,” Mr. Ban added. “Without escorts, those ships will not arrive. Without that aid, more people will die.”

The piracy crisis took on added significance last month when a Ukrainian cargo ship laden with tanks, rocket-propelled grenades and ammunition was seized and Mr. Ban said he would discuss the matter with European Union (EU) officials when he visits Geneva later this month.

“I urge them [the EU and other nations] to bear in mind the October 23 deadline as they consider longer-term solutions to the challenge of piracy on the Horn of Africa,” he added.

In its resolution the Council cited humanitarian reports that as many as 3.5 million Somalis will depend on food aid by the end of the year and WFP’s maritime contractors will not deliver that aid without naval warship escorts.

The 15-member body called on states to actively take part in the fight against piracy, “in particular by deploying naval vessels and military aircraft,” to protect the vital WFP lifeline for the affected populations.

Mr. Ban noted that the political future of Somalia, which has been plagued by protracted war and humanitarian suffering since its last functioning national government was toppled in 1991, was again uncertain with fierce fighting between Islamist insurgents and transitional government forces backed by the Ethiopian military.

“We need to set to work on a plan for deploying a viable multinational force to help secure a peace, or at the very least sustain its people,” he said, adding that he had been discussing this issue with a number of leaders of potential troop contributing countries.

In a sign of the continuing violence, the UN is temporarily relocating some of its staff from Marka in south-eastern Somalia after an explosion last night hit a UN rented vehicle, killing the driver and slightly wounding two UN personnel, an Italian and a Somali. The exact nature of the blast has yet to be determined.

Meanwhile, torrential rains and strong winds have hit a string of settlements between Mogadishu, the capital, and Afgooye, which house hundreds of thousands of people uprooted by the fighting, destroying makeshift shelters and leaving many homeless once again. Ten hours of heavy rain fell overnight Sunday, flooding many shelters and forcing many people to return to their homes in war-torn Mogadishu, despite the dangers.

The flooding is worsening an already dramatic situation, with over 1 million people displaced. Some 700,000 people fled Mogadishu last year alone, and since the beginning of 2008, another 170,000 people have been uprooted, including over 35,000 in recent weeks. Somalis are currently escaping fighting described as the worst since the beginning of the latest insurgency in February 2007.


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