UN chief visits a safer Somali capital
In the first visit of a UN Secretary General since 1993, Ban Ki-moon promised aid and military support, but warned Somali leaders they must stick to reform pledges.
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“In my discussions with Transitional Federal Government leaders, I stressed the importance of seizing this moment,” Ban said at a press conference after meeting President Sharif Friday.Skip to next paragraph
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“We have a very limited window of opportunity. I am urging the TFG leadership to make decisive, bold political reforms…and provide basic services," Ban said. “We must move ahead, quickly. The deadline is August next year. Further extension of this road map will be untenable.”
The UN has already warned that delays to key reforms – to the constitution, parliament, security agencies and the presidency – will jeopardize future international support.
“I think it’s fair to say the secretary-general’s visit was in large part an opportunity to underline our seriousness about these timetables, and to encourage the TFG to see that there will be no extension,” one senior UN staffer in Nairobi tells The Monitor. “The idea was that there would be a bit of carrot and a bit of stick.”
Few veteran Somalia-watchers hold great hope that the deadlines will be met, however. Infighting between politicians and a self-serving policy agenda could see al-Shabaab or clan warlords return, says Rashid Abdi, senior Somalia researcher with the International Crisis Group.
“The Somali political class may say they are keen on reform, but there’s very little sign in Mogadishu that the government is capitalising on the modest military successes to push their political strategy,” he says.
“They appear in fact to have no such strategy beyond clinging to power. That ineptitude is the tragedy of Somalia," says Mr. Abdi. "There has been a dramatic improvement in security in Mogadishu, and the government now has the chance to move into these liberated areas."
“But the longer they leave these areas un-policed and ungoverned, the quicker we will see criminal elements moving in.”
On the streets of Mogadishu, there was clear recognition that security had improved and that some level of normal life and business was returning.
“It seems that Somalia is getting the attention of the international community again,” Hassan Sheikh Omar, a Somali human rights campaigner, said during Ban’s visit. “It’s good that the UN chiefs should come here and support us, otherwise the pirate and terror rings will take over and Somalia would turn a crime hub in the east Africa.”
But there was also skepticism over whether Ban’s visit, and the promises of solidarity and support he made before he left, four hours later, would have any effect.
“I doubt how his visit would be different from the previous visits of the other officials or leaders,” says Hussein Moalin Maow, a market trader selling watermelons.
Abukar Al-Badri contributed to this report from Mogadishu.