New UN envoy to Somalia holds first talks

The United Nations’s new envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, held his first talks in Mogadishu on Saturday with the embattled transitional government’s top leaders, the UN said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative discussed the results of a national reconciliation congress (NRC) that gathered more than a thousand clan leaders and wrapped up late last month.

“He called for the full implementation of the outcome of the NRC and urged for the broadening of the national reconciliation process,” the UN political office for Somalia said in a statement.

The conference was boycotted by the interim government’s main opponents.

Somalia’s Islamist-led opposition held its own congress in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, earlier this month and formed a new alliance vowing to expel Ethiopians troops.

Neighbouring Ethiopia’s army came to the transitional Somali government’s rescue last year and defeated an Islamist militia that briefly controlled large parts of the country.

The remnants of the militia have since reverted to guerrilla tactics, launching almost daily hit-and-run attacks against government targets in Mogadishu.

During his brief visit to the Somali capital, Abdallah met President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, Prime Minister Ali Mohamed and other officials.

“I came here and met with the president, the prime minister and also the chairman of the reconciliation congress [Ali Mahdi Mohamed] and we have discussed several issues,” Abdallah told reporters before leaving Mogadishu. “My impression is there is something to be done in Somalia and it must be done by the Somali people,” he added.

Abdallah, a 57-year-old Mauritanian diplomat, was appointed on September 12 to replace outgoing Francois Fall as the top UN envoy in Somalia.

Even as the envoy held consultations with top leaders, the battered capital suffered its daily share of violent incidents. A roadside bomb planted by suspected insurgents killed a civilian and wounded five police officers near a market area that has seen the worst of Mogadishu attacks in recent weeks, witnesses said.

“The target was a police vehicle that was passing near Bakara junction,” witness Ismail Ali Mohamed said.

A Somali police officer who asked not to be named said five police officers were also wounded in the blast, but added their lives were not in danger.

According to an Agence France-Presse count based on reports by hospital sources, at least 80 people have been killed in the Bakara market area alone since June, most of them civilians.

Somalia has lacked a central authority since 1991 when clan feuds led to the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, touching off a power struggle that has defied numerous peace endeavours.—Sapa-AFP

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