Somalia: Steps on a path to fragile peace in a shattered country [Archives:2005/850/Last Page]

June 13 2005

“Ten Stories the World Should Hear More About”

In 2004, the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) launched an initiative called “Ten Stories the World Should Hear More About” to draw attention to important international developments and issues that fall outside the media spotlight. The list includes stories on an array of issues and from several geographical regions. Some of the stories on the list focus on troubling humanitarian emergencies and conflict situations, but they also highlight such vital areas as human rights, health and development. Every issue, we will bring a new story to you, hoping that our little effort to advocate for human rights all over the world would make a difference, some how, some way The editor

Somalia is looking at its best chance for peace in 15 years as the reconciliation process moves into a new and crucial phase and with UN poised to ramp up its humanitarian assistance. But rampant insecurity poses a steep challenge to this endeavour as most international media give the country a wide berth.

The Story

The country that used to dominate coverage a decade ago as a symbol of a collapsed state has been left out of media limelight lately, although the nation is facing a crucial challenge. The ongoing fragile reconciliation process represents Somalis' best hope since the 1990s of rebuilding their nation in peace. At great risk, a fledgling government-in-exile, formed through a national conference involving most of the rival factions, is trying to establish itself in the country from its base in neighboring Kenya. However, rampant insecurity, fueled by arms embargo violations and continued factional violence, poses steep challenges to this endeavour.

The insecurity has also kept the presence of international media to a minimum at a time when this story needs a bright light from the outside helping to put all parties on notice that the world is watching. Greater media exposure can also help to mobilize humanitarian aid to the country which continues to face drought and famine in addition to the recent deaths and damage to its coastline and fishing villages from the recent Indian Ocean Tsunami. Meanwhile, the United Nations is providing humanitarian and development aid as best it can under the conditions, while preparing a stepped-up political presence that could solidify the reconciliation process and help Somalis establish a working government. The Security Council has welcomed the establishment of the Transitional Federal Government and has urged the international community to lend political and economic support.

The Context

– Somalia is the only country in recent history that has endured such a prolonged period of state collapse.

– During a recent whistle-stop tour of the country, leaders of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) were well-received by Somalis, but they dared not even venture into the capital, Mogadishu, still awash with guns and gangs.

– Somalis continue to suffer from intermittent clan conflicts and recurrent droughts. The country is home to 400,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 800,000 returnees.

– Although recent rains have provided some respite, four consecutive years of drought have led to massive livestock losses. Overall, the drought has resulted in a livelihood crisis, indebtedness and economic stagnation.

– Somalia consistently ranks among the lowest in the world on key indicators of human development, amid high mortality and malnutrition rates.

– According to UN relief officials, top aid priorities include the delivery of assistance in water and sanitation, health and education sectors to the most vulnerable groups, including IDPs, returnees and minorities who represent 20 percent of the population.

For further information

UN Political Office for Somalia, Nairobi:

Babafemi Badejo, Officer-in-Charge, Tel: (tie line): +1 212 963 3085 or 3096; +254 2 622 695; E-mail: [email protected]

UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA):

Haile Menkerios, Director, Africa I Division, Tel: +1 212 963 0239, E-mail: [email protected];

Rehana Ahmad-Haque, Desk Officer for Somalia, Tel. +1 212 963 2502, E-mail: [email protected]