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Somalia's 'City Of Death' Shocks Speaker
Sharif Hassan Shaykh Aden, Speaker of the Somali transitional federal parliament
Baidoa, Somalia, Feb. 08, 2006 – The speaker of Somalia's parliament on Tuesday appealed for international help for millions of Somalis threatened with starvation as he visited this drought-hit central town.
In Baidoa to assess conditions for the first meeting of the Somali legislature in its own country here later this month, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan said the world could not ignore the suffering of the Somali people.
"I am urging the international community to help the people of Somalia at this critical time," he said in the town dubbed the "city of death" after thousands perished in the last drought-related famine in 1991-1992.
"I have never seen Baidoa as dry as it is now since my childhood," Adan said. "This is a serious disaster."
Two million people in central and southern Somalia are among about eight million in four countries across East Africa that are at risk of starvation because of the drought, according to the United Nations.
While UN and international aid agencies are supplying relief, their efforts are vastly complicated by insecurity in anarchic Somalia, which has been without a functioning central government for nearly 15 years.
Deep divisions in the country's current transitional government have exacerbated the problem and Adan's visit to Baidoa, about 250km west of Mogadishu, is part of an effort to patch up the rifts.
The split between the two factions - one led by President Abdillahi Yusuf Ahmed and the other by Adan and warlords who control Mogadishu - have prevented the parliament from meeting and fuelled fears of even greater unrest.
Under heavy international pressure, the two sides agreed on January 30 that parliament would convene in Baidoa on February 26 for the first time since the government left exile in Kenya last year.
"It is a great history that Baidoa will be hosting the Somalia parliament after a decade-long civil war," Adan told thousands of town residents who turned out to greet him.
"We have ended our hostilities and we will be working together for the pacification of Somalia," he said
Source: AFP, Feb. 08, 2006