Somalia faces best chance in years for peace but challenges are enormous

Although the challenges ahead are enormous, Somalia may now have the best chance in years to find a long-term solution to the conflicts that have left it without a functioning government since 1991, provided its warring factions engage in dialogue, according to a United Nations report on the country released today.“At the same time, the risks of renewed and prolonged insecurity will increase unless the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is able to rapidly consolidate its authority and ensure stability and the rule of law” through such dialogue, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in the report to the Security Council, pledging continued UN support to the Government and civil society to meet the challenges. “An inclusive dialogue and a genuine political process are the only ways to achieve a sustainable peace that denies dissatisfied groups a rallying point for conflict,” he adds.The TFG, backed by Ethiopian forces, dislodged the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) from Mogadishu, the capital, and much of the rest of the country at the end of last year, but Mr. Ban notes that the semblance of order and security that the UIC created has begun to deteriorate in the city with armed roadblocks, checkpoints, banditry and violence.Moreover, the fall of the UIC has brought to the fore some of the inter- and intra-clan rivalries that had been suppressed and the TFG has yet to establish effective authority or law and order in Mogadishu and other main population centres. “The true intentions and future influence of the former warlords also remain to be seen,” Mr. Ban writes.Although the Government has claimed to be making substantial gains against UIC remnants in the far south, fighting continues in the East African country, where nearly 1 million people have been displaced, about 1 in 9 of the population, and severe drought and recent heavy floods have added to the intensified fighting in wreaking more havoc. “The Transitional Federal Government must reach out to key political and social forces in Somalia and engage in an inclusive dialogue,” Mr. Ban stresses. “Those who renounce violence and extremism and pledge to constructively engage in achieving a sustainable political settlement in Somalia should be included in the process.”Welcoming the decision of the African Union (AU) to deploy troops in Somalia for an initial period of six months, and Ethiopia’s intention to withdraw its forces, he appeals to the international community to assist the AU in mobilizing the funds and other assistance necessary for the deployment of such a force.He also cites his intention to send a technical assessment mission to examine the possibility of a UN peacekeeping operation following the AU deployment.“In the meantime, the United Nations will continue its efforts to address the serious humanitarian needs in Somalia,” he writes, noting that harassment and detention of aid workers by Ethiopian and TFG forces have roused protection concerns.“I encourage the international community to continue to generously support relief and development assistance efforts in the country,” he says.“I call on all Somali parties to provide unhindered humanitarian access for relief efforts, as well as guarantees for the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers, and to respect the fundamental human rights of all people in Somalia,” he concludes, stressing the regional dimensions of the conflict and the need to address the security concerns of both Somalia and its neighbours. 7 March 2007Although the challenges ahead are enormous, Somalia may now have the best chance in years to find a long-term solution to the conflicts that have left it without a functioning government since 1991, provided its warring factions engage in dialogue, according to a United Nations report on the country released today. read more