|Home | Contact us | Links | Archives|
Somalia's Civil War May Become Regional Conflict, UN Envoy Says
Mr. François Lonseny Fall()
New York, June 20, 2006 – Somalia's civil war, where an Islamist militia has taken control of the southern region, may become a regional conflict involving neighboring Ethiopia, said Francois Lonseny Fall, a United Nations envoy.
“If something is not done now, the conflict may take on a regional dimension,'' Fall said yesterday in New York, referring to reports of Ethiopian soldiers moving toward the Somali border.
The Union of Islamic Courts, which won control of the capital, Mogadishu, June 5, said at the weekend Ethiopian soldiers are heading to Baidoa, the base of Somalia's transitional government lying about 240 kilometers (149 miles) west of Mogadishu, Agence France-Presse reported. Ethiopia has denied the claim, the news agency said.
The Islamist militia said its victory has put an end to factional fighting in Mogadishu that has taken place since the government of President Siyad Barre was overthrown in 1991. The movement has denied charges it is linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist network and last week pledged to deny terrorists a haven in Somalia.
Fall, the UN special representative for Somalia, said it is crucial to open talks between the Islamic Courts and the transitional government led by President Abdillahi Yusuf.
The African Union said yesterday it will send a team to Somalia to assess deploying a peacekeeping force in the country. Yusuf is scheduled today to visit Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital where the AU is based, AFP reported. The Islamic Courts has rejected having international peacekeepers in the country.
The aim of the Islamic Courts is to give power back to the people and not impose an Islamic state in Somalia based on the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan, the British Broadcasting Corp. cited Sharif Shaikh Ahmed, the leader of the group, as saying earlier this month.
More than 300 people were killed in fighting in the past month in Mogadishu, which had an estimated population of 1.2 million people in 2000.
Jan Egeland, the UN emergency relief coordinator, said last week Somalia is a ``totally forgotten and neglected crisis'' with 250,000 displaced persons in the capital alone. An estimated 1.4 million people are in ``urgent'' need of aid, the UN said June 2.
Humanitarian agencies are facing increasing difficulties getting access to people in areas now controlled by the Islamic Courts, Fall said yesterday, according to the UN Web site. UN aid workers are seeking a meeting with the militia, he said.
Somalia, an East African country slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Texas, has a population of almost 9 million.
Al-Qaeda has a ``resilient cell'' in Somalia that was responsible for a 2002 bombing in Kenya, Henry Crumpton, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, said last week in remarks to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The militia has pledged to deny terrorists a haven, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer said last week.
“We received a letter from their chairman, an attempt to reach out to the international community,” Frazer said at the time. “It said they would not allow Somalia to become a haven for terrorists. That is encouraging.”