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Somalia mission extended as violence rages

Security Council extends Somalia Monitoring Group mission as violence rages

The Security Council today re-established for a six-month period the mandate of the Monitoring Group on Somalia, set up to investigate the 1992 arms embargo, as the top United Nations envoy to the war-torn country appealed for all sides to end the bloody violence in the capital Mogadishu and “step back from the brink.”

The 15-member Council voted unanimously after hearing a briefing on the situation in the Horn of Africa country from the chair of the sanctions committee for Somalia, Qatari Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, on the report of the Monitoring Group, which highlighted that “Arms, military materiel and financial support continue to flow like a river to various actors, in violation of the arms embargo.”

The Monitoring Group also “observes an increasing rate of overall militarization and notes that there appears to be a correspondingly greater volatility of the security situation, particularly in central and southern Somalia” and warns that the “pattern of militarization and the trend towards increasing volatility greatly increases the chances of more fighting and the resulting loss of life.”

By its resolution, the Council reiterated that “all Member States, particularly those in the region” should strictly abide by the arms embargo, adding they should also “take all necessary steps to hold violators accountable.”

The Monitoring Group has identified the Transitional Federal Government, the Mogadishu-based opposition alliance, the militant fundamentalists, the business elite, pirate groups and feuding sub-clans as “the main actors” to whom the arms are going to, and says these supplies come from several main sources.

“Three fundamental sources feed this flow: a widening circle of States – each with its own agenda – arms trading groups and economically powerful individuals, and the business elite.”

The resolution points to “the urgent need for all Somali leaders to take tangible steps to continue political dialogue,” a message that was echoed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Francois Lonsény Fall, as he called for an end to four days of violence in Mogadishu.

“I am deeply disturbed by the daily reports of civilian deaths and injuries and of families fleeing for their lives…By taking their grievances to the streets, these armed groups have effectively unleashed a war on their own people,” he said in a news release from Kenya today.

“I appeal to leaders on both sides to step back from the brink and reconsider the damage they are inflicting on the population. The indiscriminate use of heavy machine guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and artillery in and between urban areas is unacceptable.”

Somalia has been torn by factional fighting ever since the collapse of President Muhammad Siad Barre's regime 15 years ago, although despite the current violence in the capital Mr. Fall said there were some signs of hope towards peace, but he emphasized that this couldn’t be imposed from outside.

“For the first time in 15 years, we have a parliament in session in Baidoa, just 240 kilometres from the current centre of violence. There is a tremendous hunger for peace throughout the country and it is difficult to overstate the importance of what is underway to secure it.”

Somalia’s Transitional Federal Institutions have been working with IGAD – the multi-country Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the African Union and the international community in an effort to develop a National Security and Stabilization Plan, Mr. Fall noted.

“The continuing violence in Mogadishu is a reminder of the urgent need to finalize this plan. It is also a reminder of the challenges that lie ahead,” he said. “But security is first and foremost a Somali process that demands buy-in from all the key Somali parties. The international community cannot impose peace on them.”

A severe drought has exacerbated the conflict in Somalia, as it has also affected other Horn of Africa countries, although the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today that seasonal rains in southern Somalia have “warded off the risk of moderate famine, averting a worst-case scenario in the region.”

Rains have also mitigated the effects of the drought in northern Somalia although OCHA warned that humanitarian needs in the impoverished country would “remain vast” even if the rains continue to be good.

OCHA also said that insecurity, along with other factors, was also still affecting the pace of humanitarian operations, highlighting for example that only 38 per cent of an estimated 50,000 malnourished and vulnerable children in need of assistance in southern Somalia have so far been reached.

Donor funding is also a major issue, and OCHA said that only 29 per cent – just over $95 million – of the $326.7 million requested under the revised 2006 consolidated appeal for Somalia has been received, with $11 million more pledged.

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