Posted on December 12, 2011 by Buqaqable.net
MOGADISHU/DADAAB, Kenya (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.
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