9 July 2009 If the international community allows Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) – forged in a process of consensus – to fail, the poverty-stricken Horn of Africa nation will be taken over by opposition groups employing tactics of coercion and intimidation, the top United Nations political official cautioned today.
Last year’s UN-facilitated Djibouti Agreement ended the conflict between the TFG and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, with President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed taking office in January and a new Government being formed in February.
“The choice before us is a stark one: either we help the Somali people overcome the current attempt to thwart efforts towards peace or we allow the new unity Government based on consensus and the Djibouti Accords to fall to a radical armed opposition,” B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told an open meeting of the Security Council.
The TFG is being challenged by insurgent forces, backed by foreign fighters, but “strives to maintain cohesion despite the obvious difficulties faced by any government of national unity,” he said.
It is reaching out, he noted, to opposition forces and working to broaden its support among community, religious and civil society leaders, while trying to project a moderate vision of Islam in line with Somali culture.
In contrast, the rebel Al Shabaab has been assassinating clan leaders and Government officials, doling out harsh punishments for minor offenses, Mr. Pascoe said.
He also called for nations to honour the pledges made in April at a donors’ conference in Brussels for both the Government and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), emphasizing that it is in the world’s interest to ensure that the TFG does not collapse.
“To enable the Government to enhance its legitimacy and broaden its base, we must invest in building the security institutions and improve its capacity to deliver public services and employment, which would have a positive impact on the hearts and minds of ordinary Somalis,” the official said.
National reconciliation is also a key element in consolidating peace in the country, he stressed, adding that the country’s peace process is open to all groups renouncing violence and willing to cooperate with the Government.
Also essential is bolstering AMISOM and providing it with the resources necessary to support the TFG and the Somali people, Mr. Pascoe told the Council.
Last month, a suicide car-bomb attack killed the national security minister, Omar Hashi Aden, and a number of innocent civilians.
“As President Sharif recently stated, the TFG’s immediate physical survival is very much dependent on a more robust AMISOM presence,” Mr. Pascoe said today, calling on nations to back efforts to allow the force to reach its full authorized strength of 8,000.
Also calling for greater support for AMISOM today was Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for the Department for Field Support (DFS).
Coordination is essential given that most of the funds pledged to the African Union (AU) and troop-contributing countries will be provided bilaterally, she said.
“I urge all Member States and regional organizations, including the European Union and the League of Arab States, to redouble efforts to expedite disbursement of pledges and to work closely with the UN to ensure that the combined support for AMISOM can be identified and prioritized,” she said.
Meanwhile, “on the ground, we are gathering momentum,” Ms. Malcorra said, with the UN supplying rations to AMISOM and constructing hospitals, among other steps.
At the end of today’s meeting, which heard from nearly two dozen speakers, the Council underscored the need for the Djibouti Agreement to remain the foundation for the resolution of the conflict in Somalia.
“The Security Council reaffirms its support for the Transitional Federal Government as the legitimate authority in Somalia under the Transitional Federal Charter,” according to a presidential statement read out by Ambassador Ruhakana Rugunda of Uganda, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency this month.
Condemning recent attacks on the TFG and civilians, it reiterated its demand that “violent opposition groups immediately end their offensive, put down their arms, renounce violence and join reconciliation efforts.”
Mr. Rugunda said that the 15-member Council deplores the loss of life and worsening humanitarian crisis.
Earlier this week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that over 200,000 people have now been forced to flee the Somali capital, Mogadishu, since fighting broke out between the Government and opposition groups in early May, in the biggest exodus from the troubled city since Ethiopian forces intervened in the Horn of Africa nation in 2007.
Today, the Council commended AMISOM’s efforts in Somalia, and took note of the communiqué recently issued at the AU summit in Sirte, Libya, which called on the Council to impose sanctions against Eritrea and others supporting armed groups undermining peace and reconciliation in Somalia.
“The Security Council is deeply concerned in this regard and will consider expeditiously what action to take against any party undermining the Djibouti Peace Process,” Mr. Rugunda said.
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