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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
18 January 2007

SOMALIA: UN calls for immediate re-engagement

NAIROBI, 18 Jan 2007 (IRIN) - The United Nations wants the international community to re-engage in Somalia to take advantage of a "window of opportunity", the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Eric Laroche, said.

"The people are war-weary after more than 15 years of conflict, instability and insecurity," said Laroche on Wednesday. "We need to resume as soon as possible high-impact projects in the capital that support stabilisation and make a visible difference in peoples’ lives."

A western diplomat involved in Somalia, who requested anonymity, told IRIN that "although the timing may not be perfect, re-engagement must begin now and the UN is right to take the lead".

He said the UN may have "some problems in the beginning but that should not stop the initiative."

Philippe Lazzarini, who heads the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Somalia, said some of the programmes expected to take priority were "back-to-school programmes, sanitation, income-generation activities and resettling internally displaced people, most of whom occupy government buildings, and the demobilisation and reintegration of militias".

Lazzarini said it was time "to be positive about Somalia and support any initiative that would contribute to the stabilisation and improvement of the daily lives of people".

"If we don't act quickly though, this opportunity may pass," Laroche said. "It's imperative that we act now so as not to lose the momentum for reconciliation that currently exists in Somalia."

In the capital, Mogadishu, civil society welcomed the UN's call, saying "the time was right".

"Their [UN] presence will contribute to stability and reconciliation and will help the economy," said a source. An estimated 1.4 million Somalis need humanitarian aid.

He said priority should be given to job creation. "We need to immediately create employment for the thousands of young unemployed people in Mogadishu. If they are not given an alternative to the gun, they will return to it, with all the consequences that entails."

Meanwhile, there have been negative reactions to the removal of Hassan Sheikh Adan as speaker of the transitional parliament.

At a news conference on Wednesday in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, the United States ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, questioned the legality of the speaker's removal. He asked whether the decision complied with parliamentary procedures and whether the requirements of the transitional federal charter, Somalia's interim constitution, were observed.

"Was there a proper forum of parliament? Were the stated procedures of parliament followed? Were the procedures and parameters of the transitional federal charter followed?" Ranneberger asked.

Another western diplomat said the action "was likely to be an obstruction to national reconciliation. It was done under questionable legality given the state of emergency."

Members of civil society in Somalia decried the move, saying it was "likely to create new divisions. The government should have taken steps to promote national reconciliation rather than create more divisions," said the source.

The Somali parliament, meeting in the town of Baidao on Wednesday, said it had ousted Adan, who has clashed with President Abdullahi Yusuf and Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Gedi over his efforts to broker peace with the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). Ethiopian-backed government troops ousted the UIC from Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia in late December.



This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2007

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