Former Somali army officers to meet for UN-backed talks in US capital

3 June 2009

Former senior army officers from Somalia are slated to meet in Washington D.C. tomorrow for United Nations-backed talks aimed at bolstering security institutions in the strife-torn nation.

The two-day gathering, arranged with the support of the Somali Ministry of Defence and the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), will look at the structure of Somalia’s military before the collapse of the State and the best ways to address the country’s current and future security needs.

“We are expecting this to be the first of several fruitful meetings,” said Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia.

Stressing that this is a “great opportunity for Somalis to find within their past some solutions for the future,” Mr. Ould-Abdallah noted that the former Somali military officers participating in this meeting are respected for their experience in training soldiers from other African nations.

UNPOS said in a press release that the meeting will serve to prepare for follow-up discussions with Somalia’s top military officials, expected to take place in late July, as part of the Government’s commitment under the Djibouti Agreement to strengthen its defence forces.

Last week Mr. Ould-Abdallah told a news conference in New York that after visiting the Horn of Africa nation, it was “very sad to see how the city [Mogadishu], the population and the country are taken hostage by those who have been fighting and destroying their country over the last 20 years.”

During his visit, he had spoken with Government leaders about the latest developments there, including the breakout of intense fighting in early May between Government troops and the opposition Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam groups. He said that up to 75,000 people, who had fled the country and returned earlier this year, had fled again because of the renewed fighting.

 

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