World ignores ‘failed state’ of Somalia

The international community must overcome its reluctance to get involved in Somalia and help put an end to abuses there, a special United Nations envoy said on Thursday.

”While more people are talking about Somalia, there is still little action to stop the violence,” Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah told the Security Council during a debate on whether to send UN peacekeepers to the East African country.

”I am not asking outside countries to become active for moral or altruistic reasons. They have a clearly mandated responsibility to become involved in a country where there are widespread violations of human rights and humanitarian law.”

Last month the Security Council extended for six months UN endorsement of an African Union mission in the lawless country. It consists of two Ugandan battalions, totaling 1 600 troops, and an advance party of 192 Burundians.

Deputy UN peacekeeping chief Edmond Mulet outlined four possible scenarios for deploying international peacekeepers. One called for the deployment of up to 27 000 UN troops.

While the 15 Security Council members agree the situation is dire, many are reluctant to send UN peacekeepers to Somalia, where Islamist insurgents, warlords and Ethiopian-backed Somali government forces fight battles every day.

Britain’s UN ambassador John Sawers described Somalia as a ”failed state” and said more political progress was needed before the council could consider deploying UN forces there.

”Until there’s further progress on the political front, it’s difficult to see scope for a fully-fledged peacekeeping force,” he said.

Black Hawk Down

French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said the council needed be certain Somalis wanted international peacekeepers.

”For the moment we have the African troops. It’s a start,” he said.

Talk of outside intervention is still coloured by memories of a battle in 1993 in which 18 US troops and hundreds of Somali militiamen died. The incident inspired a Hollywood movie, Black Hawk Down and marked the beginning of the end for a US-UN peacekeeping force.

Ould-Abdallah said: ”Somalia remains a prisoner of the past, never forgiven for the violent actions carried out against the international community in the 1990s.”

But he was encouraged by the country’s transitional federal government’s attempt to reconcile with local faCtions and the government’s decision to move back to the capital, Mogadishu, in January.

South African ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said it would take time to persuade the council to deploy peacekeepers.

”The ultimate goal is to have a UN peacekeeping mission on the ground. That is not going to happen tomorrow,” he said.

The UN refugee agency has described the conflict, which has uprooted more than one million people, as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, even worse than Darfur. – Reuters

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Louis Charbonneau
Louis Charbonneau is a UN director

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