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Return of UN political presence to Mogadishu historic step, says envoy

26 January 2012 – The re-establishment of the United Nations political presence in Mogadishu will allow the world body to work more closely with Somalia during a crucial period in its peace process, the UN envoy to the country said today.

On Tuesday Augustine P. Mahiga, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, moved to the capital of the Horn of Africa nation from Nairobi along with a number of his core staff from the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS).

The move comes one and half months after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced during his visit to Mogadishu that the UN office will relocate to the city to provide further assistance at what he called a “critical juncture” for the future of the Somali people.

“This is a historic step,” Mr. Mahiga wrote in a letter to the Somali people today. “It is now up to us to make up for lost time.”

The last Special Representative of the Secretary-General to be based in Mogadishu was James Victor Gbeho, who worked with the now defunct UN Operations in Somalia II (UNOSOM II), and left in early 1995. UNPOS was established shortly afterwards and has since been based in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

“Being on the ground will allow us to be closer to all the stakeholders – the Transitional Federal Institutions and other administrations, civil society, NGOs [non-governmental organizations], business people, journalists and ordinary Somalis,” stated Mr. Mahiga.

“Daily interaction will help us understand each other and to work together in a more imaginative and constructive manner at this crucial period in the peace process.”

He cited the need to move ahead with the roadmap that was agreed in September and which spells out priority measures to be implemented before the current transitional governing arrangements end next August, in the areas of security, the drafting of a new constitution and reconciliation.

“We also are faced with a parliamentary crisis and a continuing terrorist threat from insurgents,” Mr. Mahiga noted. “There is a lot of ground to be covered in the next seven months.”

He stressed that finalizing the draft constitution before the May deadline must be a top priority, and also underlined the need to resolve the ongoing impasse within the Parliament.

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