Somalia ‘taken hostage’ by continuing fighting, says UN envoy

29 May 2009

Somalia has been “taken hostage” by fighting, the top United Nations envoy to the Horn of Africa nation, whose capital has been the scene of clashes between Government forces and opposition militias, said today.

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, told a news conference in New York that he had visited the country this week, noting that “it is very sad to see how the city, the population and the country are taken hostage by those who have been fighting and destroying their country over the last 20 years.”

Mr. Ould-Abdallah, who is based in Nairobi, said he had spoken with Government leaders about the latest developments there, including the breakout earlier this month of intense fighting between Government troops and the opposition Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam groups.

He said up to 75,000 persons, who had fled the country and returned earlier this year, had fled again because of the renewed fighting.

“It is very sad to see a capital city I have known in the 80’s becoming a shanty town,” the Special Representative said.

Mr. Ould-Abdallah told the reporters, “I appeal to you...to talk about the plight of Somalia – how many orphans, how many handicapped how many maimed, how many people are silenced.”

“We cannot say we don’t know,” he said. “We should look we should not look the other way.”

When asked about reports of Ethiopian troops returning to Somalia, the official said they had all withdrawn and that there were no Ethiopian troops in Somalia.

“Unfortunately, Somalis are still fighting and killing Somalis,” he said. “Somalia is an unfortunate country taken hostage by...those who are still fighting.”

Instead of evoking an alibi of the alleged presence of Ethiopian troops, he said they should “assume responsibility” for what is going on in their country.

“One overriding problem in Somalia not often reported or talked about is still there. It is the problem of impunity,” Mr. Ould-Abdallah said.

“People who have killed, displaced, maimed are still around in Somalia, or in Nairobi, or in their new country home,” he added. “Impunity to me is a very overriding issue to be addressed.”

Regarding the issue of piracy off the Somali coast, he said the believes the international maritime presence is increasingly successful, forcing pirates further out to sea and increasing their operating expenses to the point that they are greater than ransoms.

 

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