Al-shabaab cease­fire call

UN chief on sur­prise visit to bat­tle-scarred Mo­gadishu

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

MO­GADISHU: UN chief Ban Ki- moon urged So­ma­lia’s al-qaeda-linked in­sur­gents to end vi­o­lence dur­ing a sur­prise visit to this war-torn city yes­ter­day. He wore a bul­let-proof jacket.

Flanked by a guard wear­ing a white UN hel­met, Ban was wel­comed at the air­port by Prime Min­is­ter Ab­di­weli Mo­hamed Ali on the first visit in nearly two decades by a UN chief to Mo­gadishu, of­ten de­scribed as the world’s most dan­ger­ous city.

“We call on the op­po­si­tion armed group al- Shabaab to stop vi­o­lence and par­tic­i­pate in the peace process,” Ban said.

Af­ter mak­ing a brief visit to the AU mis­sion (Amisom), AU forces es­corted him through the bombed-out city to the pres­i­den­tial palace.

He said his visit was the first to Mo­gadishu since 1993, when the world body still had a large So­ma­lia peace­keep­ing force, whose de­ploy­ment was con­sid­ered a de­ba­cle and left a last­ing trauma among Western mil­i­tary plan­ners.

So­mali pres­i­dent Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who had ear­lier been re­ported to be out of the coun­try, said the visit “en­cour­ages peace and de­vel­op­ment” and “demon­strates how se­cu­rity has im­proved in Mo­gadishu”.

The city has none­the­less seen an in­crease in grenade and road­side bomb at­tacks since al- Shabaab aban­doned fixed po­si­tions there in Au­gust and be­gan guer­rilla tac­tics.

But Ban’s visit also comes at a time when pres­sure is grow­ing on al-shabaab as pro-govern­ment So­mali forces are now backed not just by Amisom in Mo­gadishu, but also by Kenyan troops in the south and Ethiopian soldiers in the west.

The most high-pro­file vis­its to Mo­gadishu re­cently were by Turk­ish prime min­is­ter Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan in Au­gust and by Ugan­dan pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni.

Mu­sev­eni’s troops form the back­bone of the 9 700-strong Amisom, which has al­lowed Sharif ’s weak Tran­si­tional Fed­eral Govern­ment to sur­vive but has failed to stamp out the al-shabaab-led in­sur­gency.

Other troops are pro­vided by Bu­rundi but Ban, speak­ing in Nairobi on Thurs­day, wel- comed Kenya’s plans to bring its troops in the south un­der Amisom com­mand.

Kenya’s con­tri­bu­tion would help bring the force to its full au­tho­rised ca­pac­ity of 12 000.

Nairobi uni­lat­er­ally sent troops across its bor­der with south­ern So­ma­lia in Oc­to­ber in a move to con­tain at­tacks by alShabaab, which it blamed for a spate of kid­nap­pings that have dealt to a blow to Kenyan tourism.

Next year is set to mark the end of an eight-year So­mali tran­si­tional ad­min­is­tra­tion that has failed to ful­fil most of its key ob­jec­tives.

Ban said the UN’S po­lit­i­cal of­fice for So­ma­lia, which has so far been op­er­at­ing out of Nairobi, would open in Mo­gadishu next month.

“The UN will also open its po­lit­i­cal of­fice in Mo­gadishu in Jan­uary next year,” he said.

The tran­si­tional So­mali govern­ment was formed in neigh­bour­ing Kenya in 2004 with a five-year man­date to rec­on­cile the con­flict-shat­tered coun­try, write a new con­sti­tu­tion and hold elec­tions.

While the UN has so far re­sisted calls by the AU to take over peace op­er­a­tions, it has con­tin­ued to de­liver hu­man­i­tar­ian ser­vices, de­spite se­cu­rity con­cerns.

The Horn of Africa has been hit by its worst drought in decades and the UN has de­scribed So­ma­lia as fac­ing the world’s most se­vere hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis, putting a quar­ter of a mil­lion peo­ple at risk of star­va­tion.. – SAPA-AFP

PIC­TURE: AP

VI­TAL MEET­ING: So­mali par­lia­ment speaker Sharif Has­san Sheik Aden, far left, and So­mali pres­i­dent Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, sec­ond left, greet UN Gen­eral Assem­bly pres­i­dent Nas­sir Ab­du­laziz Al-nasser, right, as UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon, cen­tre, vis­its the So­mali Pres­i­den­tial Palace in Mo­gadishu.

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