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UN Envoy Appeals for Unity Among Somali Leaders


The United Nations' envoy to Somalia has urged the country's leaders to put aside their differences and work together in the face of a rising Islamist insurgency. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah appealed to Somalis in the government and opposition -- and other interested parties -- to think of their country's dignity and future and end their disagreements.

He issued the statement today after a warning from President Abdullahi Yusuf that the government is close to collapse because of internal disputes, mainly over formation of a new cabinet.

The U.N. envoy urged Mr. Yusuf and Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein to agree on the cabinet quickly. He said a power struggle does not serve Somalia's interests.

Islamist insurgents have taken over many towns and cities in recent weeks, including Elasha, just 18 kilometers outside the capital, Mogadishu. Witnesses say at least two people died in fresh fighting there today.

David Shinn, adjunct professor at George Washington University and former ambassador to Ethiopia, explained the fragmentation of the factions and turmoil in the transitional government that are complicating the situation.

"You have the so-called Al Shabbab, who were one time aligned with the Islamic Courts in Somalia. They provided the muscle, the firepower, the militia for the Courts," he said. "They have essentially split from the Islamic Courts and are operating on their own and it is not even clear that they have any real centralized leadership. They may be operating as almost independent units."

"In the meantime, the Islamic courts divided into two groups," he continued. "One is the Asmara faction, the so-called hardliners. The other is the Djoubti faction, which is negotiating with the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia to create unity. Then on top of all of this, you have internal problems within the Transitional National Government because it is now divided between the president and the prime minister."


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