Top UN envoy congratulates Somalis on conclusion of reconciliation debate

The top United Nations envoy to Somalia today lauded the success of the national reconciliation summit, which ended today, but cautioned that much work remains to foster better internal relations in the war-ravaged country. “For me, today’s ceremony is of particular significance,” the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Somalia François Lonsény Fall told participants at the National Reconciliation Congress in the capital Mogadishu. “It heralds the successful conclusion of a Somali-driven and owned reconciliation process within the country.” He warned that while the end of the Congress “marks yet another milestone in the quest for peace and reconciliation process in Somalia, it does not however signify the end of the reconciliation process” as the East African nation must overcome many hurdles, including engaging all opposition groups in a dialogue. “Dealing with these challenges will require political will, commitment and perseverance by all parties concerned, as well as concerted international assistance and support by Somalia’s friends and development partners,” he said. The envoy, who led a delegation of the International Advisory Committee (IAC), recommended that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) receive support to extend its authority and bolster respect for human rights throughout Somalia, which has had no functioning government since Muhammad Siad Barre’s regime was toppled in 1991. He called for the strengthening of AMISOM, the African Union-led mission in Somalia, which he said is a “prerequisite for improving stability and for providing the space for the political process, including the dialogue between the TFG and the opposition groups, to move forward.” Regarding terrorism, Mr. Fall said it is crucial to decouple the issue from that of settling the Somali political crisis to allow the reconciliation process to move forward. “The best way to fight terrorism in this country is to pursue open dialogue and genuine reconciliation among all parties in Somalia,” he said. The reconciliation congress kicked off on 14 July but was followed by a series of deadly attacks targeting locations where the conference, which was suspended for several days, took place. The attacks have wounded and killed innocent bystanders, including children, and prompted scores of others to flee. Hostilities in the country flared up last year, culminating in the expulsion from Mogadishu in December of Islamist groups by the TFG, backed by Ethiopian troops. According to UN figures, 340,000 people, or roughly one-third of Mogadishu’s population, have fled the city because of ongoing hostilities since February. 30 August 2007The top United Nations envoy to Somalia today lauded the success of the national reconciliation summit, which ended today, but cautioned that much work remains to foster better internal relations in the war-ravaged country. read more