Opinion Piece submitted by SRSG for publication this week
For the first time in 17 years the UN flag is again flying in Mogadishu. It was raised, alongside the Somali flag, on Tuesday when I moved my office from Nairobi to Mogadishu. Up to now our name has been the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) but I now believe we should be called the UN Political Office in Somalia.
This is a historic step. The last UN Special Representative for Somalia, James Victor Gbeho from Ghana, left Mogadishu in 1995 at the end of the second UN Mission in Somalia (UNOSOM II) although some of the UN agencies have kept staff in Somalia throughout. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, made a landmark visit here to Mogadishu on 9 December 2011. During that trip he announced that UNPOS would relocate to Mogadishu by the end of January – and in the ensuing weeks he continued to remind me of his promise. I regret that it has taken so long for UNPOS to come here permanently, but we intend to make up for lost time.
The original mandate of UNPOS is to "assist the Secretary-General's efforts to advance the cause of peace and reconciliation in Somalia through contacts with Somali leaders, civic organizations and the States and organizations concerned." Being permanently based here on the ground will allow us to be closer to all the stakeholders - the Transitional Federal Institutions and other major Somali political and security actors, local administrations, civil society, NGOs, business people, journalists and ordinary Somalis. It will be much easier to communicate, exchange ideas, inform key constituencies about our priorities and mandated tasks and take important decisions quickly during this crucial period.
We are in the middle of implementing the priority tasks in the Roadmap and working towards the key political goal of ending the transition in August this year. Being in Mogadishu will allow us to provide support to the process. The priority tasks cover four main areas – Security, the Constitution and Elections, Outreach and Reconciliation and Good Governance. There is a lot of ground to be covered in the next seven months
One of our top priorities is finalizing the draft Constitution before the May deadline in consultation with all Somali stakeholders. There are still many gaps in the Constitution which need to be resolved. Last month there was a meeting of stakeholders in Garowe which produced some concrete proposals – such as setting up a Constituent Assembly to provisionally adopt the Constitution and the introduction of an upper chamber in Parliament but more needs to be done.
One of the key problems remains the ongoing impasse within the Parliament. I have impressed upon the leaders that the region and the international community expect it to be resolved quickly and that remains my hope.
The international community is fully engaged on Somalia and united behind the Roadmap. Earlier this month I convened a meeting of the International Coordination and Monitoring Group which looked favourably at the progress made so far on the Roadmap and made some useful suggestions. I am heading to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa where Somalia will be a key issue and we will consolidate the ideas and support at the upcoming International Contact Group meeting in Djibouti and the London Conference in February. I take heart from the invaluable support and show of solidarity from the international community for the search for lasting peace and stability in Somalia.
I wish to pay tribute to those already based in Mogadishu. There are six UN agencies with a permanent presence here already along with NGOs, the African Union has a large presence and IGAD, the League of Arab States, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Libya, Sudan, Uganda, Turkey and Yemen are all represented. One of my tasks will be to ensure co-ordination with AMISOM, IGAD and the UN agencies and the rest of the international community. I hope our presence will pave the way for other members of the international community to relocate to Somalia and support the peace process on the ground
UNPOS's deployment to Mogadishu comes in addition to our existing presence in other parts of Somalia. We already have staff based in Hargeisa, Somaliland and in Garowe in Puntland. Being in Mogadishu and elsewhere, UNPOS will be far more able to provide accurate and timely information and analysis on ongoing and developing political issues. As the security situation improves and once additional facilities become available we shall expand our presence both inside Mogadishu and to other areas of the country. Our presence in Mogadishu will also permit a more comprehensive approach to other challenges related to peace and stability in the whole region such as piracy and terrorism.
The reason we have been able to move to Mogadishu is largely due to the work of the brave forces of the Transitional Federal Government who have been working side by side with the peacekeepers of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). I wish to pay tribute to those brave young Africans. They have managed to restore some security to Mogadishu and continue to make considerable sacrifices in the fight against the extremists.
While there has been progress on the security front and we are moving forward slowly but surely on the political front, we must not forget the humanitarian situation which has fallen out of the headlines. There are still thousands of people at risk who require urgent, sustained help. The international community has helped to improve the situation but many are still suffering and should remain in our thoughts.
I hope and believe the arrival of UNPOS will mark the start of renewed hope for the future of Somalia.