The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for Somalia Michael Keating expressed grave concern over the renewed violence in Gaalkacyo on 23 December that has resulted in the deaths of at least three people and the injuries of several others. He called on all parties to honor the ceasefire agreement.
Since the initial withdrawal of forces on 18 November, the Joint Committee of local authorities and elders from Puntland and Galmudug has made efforts to sustain the ceasefire through dialogue. Despite their commendable endeavour, a stalemate in the negotiations over removing the roadblocks installed by both Puntland and Galmudug and opening the roads is putting the ceasefire in serious jeopardy. Puntland and Galmudug must resolve their differences in a non-violent manner and immediately agree on steps to dismantle the roadblocks, reopen the roads, and pull back the forces without further delay. Any spoiler against peace and stability should be scrutinized.
It should be highlighted that the situation in Gaalkacyo has raised serious humanitarian concerns. As a result of the continuing road blockade, trucks carrying humanitarian food supplies for people affected by drought and in need of assistance have been blocked on the northern side of Gaalkacyo over the past three weeks. The situation comes amid rising food insecurity in areas that are usually reached with humanitarian and commercial supplies through Gaalkacyo. It is unprecedented for humanitarian supplies to be denied access by either side as previously, even amid armed fighting, both sides have allowed humanitarian aid to pass through, in line with international humanitarian law.
The continued hostilities could prompt another mass displacement in Gaalkacyo. Of an estimated 90,000 people displaced as a result of the fighting in October 2016, about 30,000 displaced people have not returned home due to fear of renewed fighting. While humanitarian partners continue to respond to the needs of the displaced and host communities, every effort should be made by all concerned parties to avoid another displacement that would further deepen human suffering.
SRSG Keating called on the authorities of Galmudug and Puntland to demonstrate their sustained engagement and leadership to pursue a peaceful resolution of the conflict and immediately find a solution to the blockade to guarantee the safety and free movement of relief workers and supplies to enable them to reach people who require urgent humanitarian assistance.