UN: 20 July 2009 – Somali militants raided two United Nations compounds today, stealing equipment and vehicles and forcing the world body to close down one of its operations in the violence-wracked country.
Al Shabaab militiamen looted UN facilities in the towns of Baidoa and Wajid, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters in New York, adding that the UN Office in Somalia “deeply regrets having to relocate staff and temporarily suspend its operations in Baidoa.”
Ms. Okabe said that the UN will continue working in Wajid, where the minimum security measures remain intact, and it is optimistic that a reassessment of safety conditions on the ground will allow critical humanitarian work to resume in Baidoa and elsewhere in Somalia.
The looting occurred as the top UN envoy to Somalia warned that extremist rebel groups are threatening to overthrow its legitimately recognized Government, while calling on the international community to intervene.
“While the world focuses elsewhere, groups of foreign extremists are trying to take control of a strategically placed country,” Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, wrote in an opinion piece published today in The Washington Post.
A fresh wave of fighting, which broke out in Mogadishu in May, has driven 200,000 people from their homes, in addition to the more than 400,000 already displaced near the capital and along the Afgooye corridor, west of Mogadishu.
“Those who attacked Mogadishu in May are extremists with no common agenda except to seize power by force,” said Mr. Ould-Abdallah. “They include individuals on the UN Security Council’s list of al-Qaida and Taliban members and a few hundred experienced fighters from other areas of Africa, as well as Arabs and Asians.”
He noted that Somalia has “the longest coastline in Africa and borders international maritime routes as well as regional powers Kenya and Ethiopia,” stressing that foreign fighters are using the impoverished country “to further their agenda of spreading international violence.”
The Special Representative said that the “credibility of the United Nations and others is threatened if they stand by and allow such a takeover in Somalia.”
Last year’s UN-brokered Djibouti Agreement ended the long-running conflict between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, with President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed taking office in January and a new unity Government being formed in February.
“I saw what a tremendous effort his government is making… organizing an effective administration that is working for the people,” Mr. Ould-Abdallah wrote, referring to a recent visit to President Sheikh Ahmed.
“But how can they defend against determined suicide bombers such as those who killed the extremely able internal security minister and dozens of innocent civilians in May?”
Mr. Ould-Abdallah urged donor countries to fund African Union peacekeeping troops who need better equipment, improved living conditions and logistical support, and to provide urgent life-saving aid and assistance to the suffering population.
Highlighting the Security Council’s declarations to act against those “attempting to disrupt the peace process and create anarchy,” he noted that a list “is being compiled for the UN sanctions committee of those who may find their assets frozen and face a travel ban.”
He said that businessmen gaining from the continuing conflict and others who support extremists, whether out of conviction or in pursuit of profit, should be hit in their wallets.
“Some are working in Kenya, Congo and south Sudan, but they are known. Likewise, those extremist leaders who have sent their families abroad while they destroy innocent lives here should understand that these family members will no longer be welcome.”
Mr. Ould-Abdallah said that the situation in Somalia should concern the international community and that, with help, the conflict can be stopped as other seemingly endless internal wars have been brought to a close.
News Tracker: past stories on this issue
Top UN envoy hopes for return to stability in Somali capital