[Dehai-WN] (Reuters): Somalia has a chance to restore order- UN's Ban

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Fri, 9 Dec 2011 23:35:24 +0100

Somalia has a chance to restore order- UN's Ban

Fri Dec 9, 2011 6:09pm GMT

* Ban says Somalia at a critical juncture

* Boutros Boutros-Ghali last U.N. chief to visit Somalia

* U.N. chief urges Kenya to bolster security

* "My heart and mind are crying inside," Ban says (Recasts, adds new Ban
quotes, details)

By Ibrahim Mohamed and Yara Bayoumy

MOGADISHU/DADAAB, Kenya, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Somalia has a window of
opportunity to restore stability after two decades of war, the U.N.
secretary general said on Friday, urging Kenya to do all it could to help
Somali refugees.

Ban Ki-moon made the first visit to the anarchic Horn of Africa country by a
U.N. chief since 1993 and pledged to open a U.N. political office in the
war-ravaged capital Mogadishu in January.

He also visited a refugee camp in neighbouring Kenya, where he described
himself as moved by the plight of Somalis fleeing famine, whose security has
deteriorated in recent weeks after attacks that forced aid agencies to
suspend some operations. A family told him how they lost two children
fleeing Somalia.

"My heart and mind are crying inside," Ban said.

In Mogadishu, Ban said his visit was to show solidarity with Somalia's
people and to pledge continued international support as government and
African Union troops fight Islamist rebels and politicians work towards
elections next year.

"I believe we are now at a critical juncture, a moment of fresh
opportunities for the future of the Somali people," Ban told reporters after
meeting President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

"We have a very limited window of opportunity," Ban said, adding more was
needed on political, military and humanitarian fronts.

The rebel al Shabaab group in a statement said it did not recognise the
United Nations a legitimate body to regulate Somali affairs. It denounced
Ban's visit as a "futile attempt aimed at boosting the drained morale of the
African Union soldiers in Somalia."

Ban, who was accompanied by Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, president of the
U.N. general assembly, said a quarter of a million Somalis still faced
famine in southern Somalia. He condemned the closure of some aid agency
offices by the al-Qaeda-linked rebels last month.

The U.N. Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) has a few political officers
on the ground in Mogadishu but high-level officials are based in Kenya's
capital Nairobi due to security concerns.

Diplomats in Nairobi said that for the plan announced by Ban to have
significance at least one of the two top officials - Special Representative
Augustine Mahiga and Deputy Special Representative Christian Manahl - should
move to Mogadishu.

Mahiga said he expected to be among the first wave to move.


Ban urged all Somalis to support a political roadmap agreed earlier this
year that is meant to lead to parliamentary and presidential elections next
year and end a string of fragile transition governments.

The last U.N. Secretary General to visit Somalia was Boutros Boutros-Ghali
in 1993.

After his visit to Mogadishu, Ban jetted into Kenya's Dadaab refugee
complex, near the border with Somalia, home to some 440,000 Somalis who have
fled war and famine.

Ban appealed to Kenya, which is eight weeks into a military campaign inside
southern Somalia to crush al Shabaab's networks, to protect the refugees.

"I have strongly urged the Kenyan government first of all to provide
necessary assistance ... and also strengthen security," he said in the
world's largest refugee camp.

When Somalia's famine broke out in July, aid agencies rushed in celebrities
and journalists as numbers in Dadaab's three camps ballooned. This time, in
contrast, Ban's movements were severely restricted.

Security has been tightened sharply following the kidnapping of two Spanish
aid workers by gunmen linked to Somalia and a wave of low-level bomb blasts
in the camps, some targetting U.N. aid convoys and police.

"We were relying on police to secure us against kidnapping, but now if the
police are targeted, we have to decide what to do," said Sonia Aguilar, a
spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency.

Relief groups have suspended non-critical operations. One refugee told Ban
camp dwellers had organised their own security patrols in some areas.
(Additional reporting by Mohamed Ahmed; Writing by Richard Lough)

C Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved


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