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UN Expert Says Peace Possible in Somalia

A U.N. Special Investigator says he believes Somalis are ready to make peace and the international community should seize the opportunity to push this process along. The expert has presented a grim view of the current situation in Somalia to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In presenting his report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, independent expert Shamsul Bari described the multiple horrors experienced by the Somali people during nearly two decades of conflict. He notes more than one million people have been displaced, hundreds of thousands have been killed and many more maimed or wounded.

Bari says people who cannot afford to leave, suffer a precarious existence. He says there are few work or educational opportunities. He says war and drought have affected the food supply and hospitals are devoid of even basic facilities.

"On top of this, there are unscrupulous traders who exploit the plight of the people for personal gain," said Bari. "There can hardly be a worse example in the world where ordinary people are faced with such a hopeless situation. Added to this, of course, is the fact that the people of Somalia have to live in constant fear for their lives because of the war that rages around them almost all the time."

The U.N. investigator says he was unable to visit Somalia because of the security risks. And, so, he says he gathered the information for his report from Somali refugees in neighboring Kenya and Yemen.

But Shamsul Bari says he is convinced that after years of unending war, the people of Somalia are more ready now than ever to give peace a chance.

He says the efforts of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia Ahmedou ould Abdullah are yielding tangible results.

"The Djibouti Peace Agreement, which he has so painstakingly worked out in the last one year, has already led to the complete withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops from Somalia, the enlargement of the Transitional Federal Government, the election of a new president and the formation of a government of national unity under a new prime minister," said Bari.

"This has created a new momentum and a window of opportunity for lasting peace and security in Somalia which must not be lost," he added.

Bari urges the international community to support the new government to ensure its success. He says the United Nations has a key role to play in bringing peace to Somalia.

He says the protection and promotion of human rights and humanitarian law in Somalia must be inextricably linked to the political process. He says it is of utmost importance that peacekeeping/stabilization forces be deployed in Somalia, as foreseen in the Djibouti Peace Agreement.