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SOMALIA: UN envoy calls for international justice to stem violence


Photo: Aweys Yusuf Osman/IRIN
People go through destroyed property, Mogadishu,Somalia, May 2007.Conflict-related displacement in Somalia has forced people to leave their lands several times.
NAIROBI, 14 November 2007 (IRIN) - The UN envoy for Somalia has urged the international community to consider using international justice to curb the violence in Somalia, saying that civil strife had precipitated the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa.

"The international community is trying hard, but it is not giving the appropriate attention to the population," UN Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, told reporters in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on 13 November.

"People perpetuating crimes and violence are not being challenged before the International Criminal Court [in The Hague]. I think the time has come to see what international justice can do to help Somalis." He said investigators could identify people who may be responsible for violence and human rights violations in Somalia.

He said Somalia had experienced civil unrest for 17 years despite 14 agreements aimed at ending the conflict and challenged Somalis themselves to find a lasting solution to their differences.

He said the idea of mediation in Somalia through a "coalition of the willing" - states culturally or religiously close to Somalia - was gaining ground as an alternative way of attempting to resolve the conflict. "The objective is to help [establish] minimum stability in the country," said Ould-Abdallah.

Violence, particularly in Mogadishu, the capital, has escalated since Ethiopian troops went into Somalia in December 2006 to help the country's Transitional Federal Government drive out the Union of Islamic Courts, which had seized control of much of the south.

"The humanitarian situation in Somalia is the worst in Africa, and I am talking about food security, malnutrition and all these issues. The current crisis in Mogadishu can only make it worse," said Ould-Abdallah.   

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), an estimated 173,000 Mogadishu residents fled the violence in the past two weeks alone. Nearly 90,000 had congregated around the town of Afgoye, about 30km west.

Another 33,000 internally displaced people had moved to other places around Mogadishu, while thousands more had gone to locations in the Lower Shabelle region, UNHCR said in a statement issued on 13 November.

"This morning, staff reported that private trucks were still evacuating families from Mogadishu to Afgoye, which is struggling to cope with more than 150,000 IDPs who have fled there since the beginning of this year," UNHCR said.

The latest population movements had swelled the total number of internally displaced people in Somalia to 850,000, according to UNHCR. The figure included some 450,000 who have been displaced by conflict in Mogadishu since February 2007.

The agency was sending more aid supplies to those displaced by the fighting between government forces and allied Ethiopian troops and opposition groups in the city.

"The needs in the Afgoye area remain immense. People can no longer find space for shelter around the town itself. Many families are simply living under trees. Although several NGOs are trucking water to the sites, it's not enough to meet demand. There are long queues around water trucks and some IDPs report having to wait in line for up to six hours for 20 litres of water," UNHCR said.

According to UNHCR, a house-to-house search of insurgents and street patrols by Ethiopian forces in Mogadishu on 12 November was extended to six of the city's 16 districts, trapping civilians in some areas. All roads leading to districts such as Hawlwadaag, Hodan and Wardhigley and Bakara market in south Mogadishu were sealed off. Areas such as Dayniile, Yakhshiid and Huriwa to the north were also affected, restricting the movement of civilians. "Residents in some of the areas said soldiers had been posted on rooftops."

jn/ah/mw


Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Food Security, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

[ENDS]

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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