The United Nations will be seeking more funds for Somalia for both security and social services, the top United Nations political officer said today, citing a sense that progress is being made in a country devastated by factional fighting and without a central authority for nearly 20 years.
“Nobody obviously wants to sound overly optimistic about Somalia at any time, but the fact is that the strategy is in place and that it is moving forward,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told a news conference in New York on his return from a visit to Eastern and Southern Africa.
“The most important thing to mention is that the TFG (Transitional Federal Government) has certainly, under the new leadership after Sheikh Sharif [Sheikh Ahmed] was elected president [in January], gone way out of its way in trying to be inclusive and trying to bring people in.”
Most of the various groups that were in opposition or out have joined the Government, although two main extremist Islamist groups are still fighting, he added, citing the fact that the TFG now has a plan of how it wants to move forward.
“I think that anyone who looks at Somalia would not call the situation there anything but fragile, but unlike a few months ago when everyone was making dire predictions that the Government was going to fall, that it was going to be taken over, I don’t think people are making any of that assumption at the moment,” he said.
“There are serious threats to be dealt with, there is no question about that, and it’s going to take a very long time to move the process forward,” he added, stressing that funding is a serious problem.
“I would guess that we will be asking for more money and more assistance in the months ahead. Clearly they’re going to need it both for security and also for the social services the Government needs to provide. One of the difficulties about Somalia, of course, is that without the aid and the assistance for real development aid, then it’s very hard for the Government to show what it’s doing.”
On security, Mr. Pascoe noted improvements in the African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in Somalia (known as AMISOM). “Again the stories on AMISOM a year or so ago were how it was all falling apart, how dire the situation was,” he said, but AMISOM has been doing well recently, with support from the UN Department of Field Services and food and logistics support also coming.
“This has had a real in effect in the confidence of the forces there,” he added, noting that Burundi and Uganda are putting in more battalions, others are talking of joining the force and a process is in place for reaching the target strength of 8,000. It now numbers 5,000.
“What I found very encouraging myself in talking to both the Ugandans and the Burundians and with the AU people is that you didn’t have that kind of level of discouragement that you had a year or so back, that they now really can see a path forward,” he said.
During his visit Mr. Pascoe co-chaired a high-level meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, on implementing the peace pact between the TFG and some of its Islamist militant opponents.
In a related development, Walter Kälin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), today emphasized that the situation of the 1.5 million uprooted people in Somalia is “particularly bad and it is worsening.”
Some 300,000 people were driven from their homes last year, with 100,000 people having been displaced so far this year, most from the capital, Mogadishu, said the expert, who visited the country earlier this month.
“I was really shocked about the degree of violence taking place,” he said. Unlike most other conflict situations he has visited where IDPs relate how they escaped the threat of general violence, in Somalia, the uprooted had personally experienced warfare, including the shelling of homes, the killing of family members and rape.
“There is a total climate of impunity regarding those responsible for displacement,” Mr. Kälin noted, calling for the stepped up support for Somalia to ensure that that issue of accountability is addressed.
He said he agreed with the sentiment expressed by many IDPs he met with in camps that they feel neglected by the international community and they are not receiving the same attention and assistance as those in similar situations. “The issue is not high up enough” on the world’s radar, the Representative said.
With most of the UN’s operations for Somalia are located in neighbouring Kenya, he suggested that, in spite of the security situation, at least some of the world body’s programmes be moved into Somalia.
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