UN to boost presence in Somalia to further peace

The United Nations said on Tuesday that plans to boost its civilian presence in Somalia are meant to help further the peace process in the strife-torn Horn of Africa country.

Nairobi-based UN special envoy for Somalia Augustine Mahiga expects the mission he heads to deploy some of its international staff to the Somali breakaway states of Puntland and Somaliland within the next few months, according to UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky.

Mahiga said it was crucial that his UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) ultimately be represented in the Somali capital Mogadishu, currently the scene of constant gun battles between government troops and Islamist rebels.

But Mahiga, the former Tanzanian ambassador to the UN, stressed that for security reasons the UN mission would have to act cautiously.

Violence has engulfed the Somali capital since the African Union deployed peacekeepers in 2007 to protect the embattled government from Islamist insurgents who control most of the rest of the country.

The UN’s World Food Programme is feeding 340 000 people in Mogadishu, where much of Somalia’s vulnerable population is located.

Mahiga said he hoped an increased UN representation inside the lawless country will help advance the peace process.

There are currently more than 60 international UN staffers based inside Somalia, alongside 800 national staff, from various UN agencies.

They are delivering humanitarian assistance and implementing recovery and development programs to benefit about 3,2-million Somalis.

Monday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon also said that, with the African Union peacekeeping force nearing its full deployment of 8 000 troops, the world body was now seriously considering having a light
presence in Mogadishu and other parts of war-ravaged Somalia.

The hardline Shebab Islamist group, which controls about 80% of Somalia, is believed to count up to 7 000 armed men, with a main force of around 3 000 fighters with well-honed guerrilla skills.

It comprises an armed wing, known as the Jeish al-Usrah (Army of Suffering), as well as a religious police or propaganda arm known as Jaysh al-Hisbah (Army of Morality). - AFP

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