Somalia has made “remarkable progress” as it continues down the road towards economic and political stability, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today as he arrived in the capital city of Mogadishu – the third stop in a tour of the Horn of Africa aimed at promoting development and consolidating peace and security across the wider region.
Speaking to reporters as he touched down in the city, Mr. Ban acknowledged that after two decades of internecine conflict and humanitarian crises, Somalia was finally waking from a “long nightmare,” reaching a “pivotal moment” as militant group Al-Shabaab appeared to be on the wane and political progress had finally seemed to take root as the country’s institutions were steadily strengthened.
“Politically, this country is coming together like never before,” he told the press. “I especially commend the agreements to form regional administrations. These bodies must be inclusive with strong representation of women and young people.”
The Secretary-General’s remarks come amid a joint trip uniting the capacities of the United Nations, World Bank, European Union, Islamic Development Bank, and African Development Bank and targeting a swathe of countries in the Horn of Africa, spanning Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda, with an $8 billion development initiative.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who is a member of the high-level delegation to the region, noted that Somalia’s transition presented “a unique opportunity” for the nation and the wider Horn of Africa region “to improve the livelihoods of the people by engaging them in productive economic activities.”
“Political stability and human security are important pre-requisites for reducing extreme poverty and increasing shared prosperity for the Somali people,” he added.
The high-level visit comes at a critical time in Somalia’s shift from a country beset by numerous challenges – ranging from humanitarian issues to piracy – to a stable regional player.
Although Somalia has long been torn by factional fighting and the spread of militant religious fanaticism in the guise of Al-Shabaab, recent military gains against the terrorist group have permitted the Federal Government of Somalia, with the assistance of the UN Assistance Mission (UNSOM), to pursue a peace and State building agenda and to strengthen the country’s security sector, promote respect for human rights and women’s empowerment and assist in the coordination of international assistance.
The Secretary-General commended the Somali National Army and the African Union Mission (AMISOM) forces for their advances against Al-Shabaab and contributions to the overall peace and stability of the country. But, he warned, it remained “critical that they now secure roads to newly recovered areas to enable commercial traffic and humanitarian access.”
The United Nations, in fact, has warned that the Government of Somalia and other international stakeholders must find a sustainable solution to the recurring droughts and famines which have hit the local population hard, leaving many poor and vulnerable.
According to a recent warning issued by the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, more than three million Somalis remain in need of assistance, including over one million who do not have enough to eat – a number up 20 per cent compared to six months ago.
In his remarks, Mr. Ban said he was “very concerned” about the humanitarian situation and urged donors to step up their contributions in order “to avert another famine.” At the same time, however, he explained that maintaining delivery of services to Somalis while strengthening institutions should remain the “focus” of all efforts.
As a result, the Secretary-General reiterated the United Nations and the international community’s two-pronged commitment to helping Somalia address its “immense” political, governance, security and development challenges and consolidating the progress made by the country so far.
“Many of the indicators are finally pointing in the right direction,” Mr. Ban declared. “Somalia needs continuity and stability at this critical time.”