29 August 2011 Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed recent visit to the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland is a step forward on the path to national reconciliation in the faction-wracked country, a senior United Nations official said today.
The visit, facilitated by the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), comes ahead of a high-level consultative meeting in Mogadishu, the capital, from 4 to 6 September, which aims to launch the process of giving the strife-torn country its first functioning national Government by next August in more that two decades.
During his visit President Sheikh Sharif invited President Abdirahman Mohamed Mohamud ‘Farole’ of Puntland to attend the meeting.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Augustine Mahiga said the visit was “a credit to the statesmanship of both President Sheikh Sharif and President Farole and opens the way for the advancement of national reconciliation and cooperation in Somalia.
“This is particularly critical as the Somali leadership and their partners prepare for the Consultative Meeting to adopt the Roadmap defining priority tasks for the next 12 months as agreed in the Kampala Accord,” he added, referring to the pact reached in the Ugandan capital, under which the terms of the country’s President and the Speaker of Parliament were extended for one more year.
This was a breakthrough that resolved the impasse over the current transition period, which was meant to have ended this month. In February, Parliament voted to extend its term for three years, a move rejected by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
Mr. Mahiga praised the two leaders for setting a positive tone towards consolidating peace, saying he expected this to be replicated in other regional administrations. “We, the regional and international partners, stand ready to render any support the people of Somalia require as they make efforts to move the peace process forward,” he added.
Beyond the violence spawned by warlords and Islamic militants, such as Al Shabaab, which has killed countless thousands and driven some hundreds of thousands more from their homes, Somalia is now beset by a devastating drought and famine in which tens of thousands of people have already died and 3.2 million others, about one third of the total population, are thought to be on the brink of starvation.
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