The top United Nations official for Somalia voiced disappointment today at the transitional parliament’s extension of its mandate by three years beyond the August deadline by which it was to enact a new constitution and hold general elections in the war-torn country.
Somalia has not had a functioning central government for 20 years and has been riven by factional fighting, currently between the internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (TFG), supported by a UN-backed African Union (AU) peacekeeping force, based in Mogadishu, the capital, and Al Shabaab and other Islamist groups, which control much of the country, especially in the south.
“This is a disappointing decision taken in haste without the required level of discussion and consultation on how to end the transition and on the next political dispensation after 20 August 2011,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine P. Mahiga, said in a statement.
“The Somali people deserve and expect to see change. It is the responsibility of the TFIs [transitional authorities] to implement this change in consultation with major entities representing the Somali people and key partners of the international community,” he added.
Mr. Mahiga said the UN and its partners, the AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a regional development organization in eastern Africa, would meet jointly with Somalia’s transitional leadership as soon as possible to discuss the way forward while ensuring stability and change.
Last week, Mr. Mahiga noted that there was “unanimous agreement both inside and outside Somalia” that the transitional period had to end in August as envisaged under the Djibouti Agreement, a UN-facilitated peace process that began in 2008 and was embraced by some Islamist militias but not by several others who continue a war that wreaks daily havoc on civilians, especially in Mogadishu.
He acknowledged then that several tasks remain to be completed by August such as continuing initiatives on reconciliation, building civilian and security institutions and the completion of the constitution-making process.
Meanwhile, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today that at least 7,600 people reported weapons-related injuries in 2010 in Mogadishu, an average of more than 20 a day, making it the worst year in a decade for civilian casualties. One in five injured was a child.
The Somali capital is without doubt one of the most deadly cities anywhere, a UNHCR spokesperson, Adrian Edwards, told a news briefing in Geneva.
Just last Monday, at least 15 people were killed and some 50 injured in clashes involving the transitional government’s forces, close to Banadir Hospital in south-west Mogadishu. UNHCR is appalled by the loss of civilian lives and the complete disregard shown for their safety, Mr. Edwards said. Last year hundreds of Somalis were killed in the capital.
Some 4,200 Somalis have been forced to flee their homes in Mogadishu since the start of January and UNHCR estimates that 1.5 million people are displaced within the country, many in areas inaccessible to humanitarian workers. More than 650,000 are living as refugees in neighbouring countries.
Somalia remains one of the worst and most alarming humanitarian crises that UNHCR faces, generating the largest number of refugees and displaced in the world after Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Edwards said. He added that UNHCR – as part of the UN humanitarian community in Somalia, again and in the strongest of terms – urges all armed groups and forces in the capital to make the protection of civilians a top priority.