The fighting and humanitarian suffering that continues to engulf much of Somalia is the work largely of foreign extremists taking advantage of the anarchy that has prevailed in the Horn of Africa country for almost 20 years, the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate has heard.
Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, President of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), told the Assembly debate yesterday that the renewed surge in fighting this year – which has driven more than 250,000 people from their homes since May – is part of a new type of rebellion under way in his country.
Mr. Ahmed said this rebellion was being conducted mainly by foreign extremists and went against Islam, but was able to continue in part because Somalia has not had a functioning nation-wide government since 1991.
“At this difficult moment in history, we need assistance and support,” he said, urging the international community to back the efforts of the TFG to defeat the rebels, restore law and order and distribute humanitarian aid to the millions of people in need across the country.
Mr. Ahmed warned that unless “prompt and decisive steps” are taken, the effects of the conflict could spill over into neighbouring countries and further destabilize the wider region.
An African Union peacekeeping force known as AMISOM has been deployed in Somalia, but last week more than 20 members of the force were killed when a suicide bomber struck its headquarters in Mogadishu, the capital.
Mr. Ahmed thanked the AU for its support and added that his Government is working to create new naval forces and to take further steps to tackle the scourge of piracy in its coastal waters.
In his address to the Assembly today, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin echoed the concerns of Mr. Ahmed, saying “Somalia is being hijacked by foreign fighters who have no inhibition in proclaiming that their agenda has nothing to do with Somalia.”
Mr. Mesfin accused the international community of lacking the necessary political will to tackle Al Shabaab and other extremist groups. Ethiopian troops intervened in Somalia in 2007 to try to support the TFG.
“No one who knows Somalia well believes that Al Shabaab is popular in Somalia. Whatever gains they have made is a function of their brutality and the support they have from without.”
The Foreign Minister said it was clear that today there is greater coordination among those who help the extremists than there is among those who say they support the TFG – with the recent suicide bombing of AMISOM’s headquarters being a perfect example.
“Those destroying Somalia are being emboldened, and their supporters rewarded. Conversely, the TFG authorities continue to lose confidence, with pledged support continuing to dwindle in practice. The international community is being stingy even with symbolic steps to show resolve against extremists and spoilers in Somalia.
“The IGAD [InterGovernmental Authority on Development] countries spoke in one voice and appealed to the UN Security Council. African heads of State and government endorsed unanimously the IGAD call for the Security Council to stand up and be counted in support of the fight against extremism in Somalia. However, it appears the Council does not consider Somalia is a priority. In the meantime, those supporting extremism have made Somalia a priority.”