A United Nations team will head to the Horn of Africa next week to explore how the world body can support the African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in Somalia, which has seen an upsurge in violence in recent months despite the signing of a UN-facilitated peace accord last June.
The team, which includes the UN Deputy Special Representative for Somalia, Charles Petrie, as well as representatives from UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) and the departments of peacekeeping, field support and political affairs at UN Headquarters in New York, will hold talks in Nairobi and Addis Ababa.
Violence continues in Somalia, which has not had a functioning central government since 1991, despite the signing in June of the UN-facilitated Djibouti Agreement by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS).
Both sides agreed in that pact to end their conflict and called on the UN to deploy an international stabilization force to the troubled nation.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stated that conditions are not yet right for a UN peacekeeping operation in Somalia. Instead, he recommends strengthening the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) through financing, logistical support, training, equipment and other reinforcements facilitated by the UN and Member States.
Mr. Ban has “undertaken a number of contacts, including with regional leaders, to ensure that AMISOM urgently receives the necessary support,” according to a statement issued by UNPOS.
In addition to discussing ways to support AMISOM, the team will also hold consultations on support to Somalia's transitional security forces and police.
UN Special Representative for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah said he was hopeful that the visit would result in concrete and swift action.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that gunmen shot and killed one of its staff members yesterday near the Somali capital, Mogadishu – the second killing of a WFP worker in the country in three days.
Mohamud Omar Moallim, a 49-year old food monitor, was killed during a distribution to displaced people about 10 kilometres northwest of Mogadishu, according to the agency.
Despite the challenging security circumstances in Somalia, WFP has managed to provide food aid to more than 1.5 million needy people in the country each month. WFP shipped some 260,000 metric tons of food to Somalia in 2008, almost four times what it provided in 2007.
An estimated of 3.2 million people in Somalia – 43 per cent of the population – are in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of the combined effects of conflict and drought.