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Top UN envoy hopes for return to stability in Somali capital

Top UN envoy hopes for return to stability in Somali capital

A group of IDPs in Mogadishu
Following gains made by Somali security forces over the weekend, the top United Nations envoy to the war-torn Horn of Africa nation voiced hope today that stability can soon return to the beleaguered capital Mogadishu.

Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that over 200,000 people have fled Mogadishu since fighting broke out between the Government and the opposition Al-Shabab and Hisb-ul-Islam groups in early May, in the biggest exodus from the capital since Ethiopian forces intervened in Somalia in 2007.

According to media reports, Government troops forced militants from areas around the presidential palace in Mogadishu.

“Despite the restraint from the Somali forces and others, attacks continued against Government institutions and innocent civilians with massive abuses of human rights and killings,” said Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative.

“It is in response to this that the Government forces had no alternative but to defend Mogadishu’s population,” he added.

Some of those uprooted by clashes are families who had recently returned to the capital after a period of relative peace earlier this year, and Mr. Ould-Abdallah said today he hopes that this weekend’s developments will allow the displaced to return home and be reached by humanitarian aid.

A local human rights organization, known as Elman, has reported that at least 350 civilians have been killed and 1,500 others injured since fighting escalated in May, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.

Those sustaining injuries in the clashes have very limited access to health care, and the three major hospitals in Mogadishu have been receiving more casualties that they can handle and are in urgent need of medicine and other medical supplies, OCHA added.

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe warned the Security Council last week that if the international community allows Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) – forged in a process of consensus – to fail, the poverty-stricken country will be taken over by opposition groups employing tactics of coercion and intimidation.

Last year’s UN-facilitated Djibouti Agreement ended the conflict between the TFG and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, with President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed taking office in January and a new Government being formed in February.

“The choice before us is a stark one: either we help the Somali people overcome the current attempt to thwart efforts towards peace or we allow the new unity Government based on consensus and the Djibouti Accords to fall to a radical armed opposition,” he said.

Also last week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that it is clear that grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law – possibly amounting to war crimes – are being committed in Somalia.

“In this new wave of attacks, it is clear that civilians – especially women and children – are bearing the brunt of the violence,” Navi Pillay said, noting that attacks against civilians have been one of the main features of the conflicts that have engulfed the country since 1991.