15 April 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

press conference by foreign minister on situation in somalia

 


Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Jama of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia said today that, with African leaders headed to New York for a high-profile Security Council summit this week, the time was right for meaningful steps to lay out a broad security strategy to help bring lasting peace to the war-torn country, including by mandating a multinational peacekeeping force.


“We believe there is a sense of urgency around the Somalia issue and it is the right time to address it in a comprehensive manner,” Mr. Jama said at a Headquarters press conference ahead of the arrival tomorrow of Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who is expected to be among the leaders attending the Security Council meeting on ways to boost security cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union.  That meeting will be chaired by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, which holds the Council’s presidency for April.


Mr. Jama said that, while President Ahmed would highlight some major achievements of the Transitional Federal Government, he would nevertheless press the Council quickly to approve a multinational peacekeeping force.  A United Nations-mandated presence would not only provide security, but also ensure the stability that would help the nascent national reconciliation and development process take hold in Mogadishu, the war-ravaged capital, and spread throughout the country, which remained without a central Government since the 1991 overthrow of Mohammed Siad Barre.


“The Government has been trying hard for several years to revive the Somali State,” Mr. Jama said, stressing that security challenges impacted the efforts of transitional leaders at every level.  The National Reconciliation Congress had been held in Mogadishu last August, and meaningful measures were being taken to ensure security and facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid to displaced persons or communities affected by drought or other natural disasters.  The Transitional Federal Government had also begun to explore the establishment of various electoral bodies and lay the groundwork for an inclusive constitutional process.


Joining Mr. Jama at the podium was Idd Beddel Mohamed, Deputy Permanent Representative of Somalia to the United Nations, who said that all the country’s traditional leaders had attended the National Reconciliation Congress, which had adopted several important resolutions, including one on deepening reconciliation and streamlining the Transitional Federal Government.  In that regard, a smaller Cabinet had already been set up and further adjustments to administrative structures were being weighed.


“But security is a major component of the reconciliation process,” he said, underscoring that peace and stability would help the Somali people rebuild the fabric of their torn lives and communities, and deepen national reconciliation at the same time.  With that in mind, Somalia would ask the Council to strengthen the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) -- still operating at just over a quarter of its projected troop strength -- and help identify a long–term security strategy that would include a multinational force.


Asked whether there was “any real peace to keep”, given the resurgence of Islamist fighters and ongoing violence, including the recent deadly attack by armed gunmen on a town near the Ethiopian border in central Somalia, Mr. Jama said recent events were more than enough evidence that the Security Council should assume its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security by mandating a peacekeeping force.  The Government was doing what it could and AMISOM was doing its part as well.  But the issue must be tackled comprehensively, with a broad strategy that would allow the Government to prevail over the “spoilers out there” -- all those attacking humanitarian workers, engaging in piracy and killing teachers -- trying to derail progress.  And with terror tactics now being “imported from outside the country”, a comprehensive, United Nations-backed security strategy would not only help Somalia, but also provide assurances to the wider East Africa and the international community.


Questioned about previous pleas for the Council’s help that had essentially been ignored, the Minister said he was aware the 15-nation body had been struggling with the matter.  Still, the situation may be “dynamic” but there was now a window of opportunity.  More countries and Security Council members were coming around to the view that the time was right for United Nations engagement in Somalia.


“So we will be persistent in our quest to ask the United Nations to shoulder its responsibility under the Charter,” he declared, reiterating that, while the Government was working very hard to contain problems, it needed international assistance to ensure lasting peace.


Asked about Somalia’s economic viability once peace was achieved, he said that even today, despite all the security challenges, many economic activities were under way.  Indeed, Somalia had one of the most vibrant telecommunications industries in Africa, which was driven by the Somali diaspora either sending money back home for start-up information technology ventures, or by people actually returning home and launching their own businesses.  There were many success stories that the press could focus on.  “As soon as we can deal with security, I assure you we will have one of the most successful countries in Africa.”


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For information media • not an official record