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UN Independent Expert Calls for Greater UN, US Help for Somalia

02 October 2007

The UN Independent Expert on Human Rights in Somalia is calling for greater UN and international response to help bring peace to the nation. Ghanim Alnajjar recently completed a 5-day mission to Somalia where fighting has displaced some 700-thousand people.

From Kuwait City, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the scope of the political and humanitarian crises in Somalia.

“The situation in Somalia is very serious. We are talking about a country, which has been neglected for sometime. It’s over 17 years by now. I think the situation is still a lack of statehood, lack of proper administration, the continuing suffering for the vast majority of Somali people…and the regional interest in the Somali political issues basically is self-serving for these regional powers and forces,” he says.

Alnajjar has met with members of the Transitional Federal Government, various clans, ngos and civil society. Asked whether he still has hope for peace considering the ongoing violence, he says, “There is always hope provided that the hope is substantiated by real efforts and real steps. What I see is an internal and external problem that will prevent the situation from moving forward. I think there are some positive steps that you could see in some places. There are places where you have some peace and some progress. The situation of the south and center is the most problematic and dramatic. So, looking forward, yes, there is hope.”

However, he says peace will require greater international involvement. “The basis could be seen through more interest from the international community, whereby you have a new (UN) Security Council resolution, where you have new peacekeeping operations started by the United Nations,” he says.

He says the current Africa force in Somalia, some 1500 Ugandans, is undermanned and under-equipped. The force is supposed to be 8,000 strong. He believes a new force with a mix of Arab and African troops could gradually replace Ethiopian forces.

Asked what are the chances for meaningful reconciliation talks, the UN official says, “One thing which we need to remember is that the current government is called the Transitional Federal Government and it is transitional federal institutions that were agreed upon in Nairobi. The end result is already timed for this government. (In) 2009 there has to be a multi-party open election. So, the whole issue for this government is to prepare for this period where in 2009 it will have to go into elections. Certainly, I hope that all parties can sit together and talk, but sometimes you have…the regional influence playing a role. And having the opposition being in Asmara and Ethiopian forces present in Somalia, I don’t this will be helpful. The United States also has to play a more positive and constructive role by trying to put this thing together; and by pushing and putting pressure on the regional powers not to extend their agenda to disrupt any kind of meetings. So, the possibility of having a meeting in the current situation is very remote.

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