United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Somali’s capital Friday for talks on the future of the war-torn country. During his visit, Ban announced that the U.N. political office would be moved to Mogadishu in January from its present location in neighboring Kenya.
The office, called the United Nations Political Office for Somalia, was set up in 1995 to help the then-secretary-general connect with Somali leaders, civil society groups, and others with the goal of bringing about peace and reconciliation in the war-torn country.
Ban also said that his visit to the beleaguered capital was meant to boost morale as African Union troops have been chasing away al-Shabab militants from the capital and beyond.
“Being here is the most visible way for us to send clear message to the people of Somalia: You are not alone; the U.N. and broader international community will stand with you and will stay with you as you build your own future," he said. "This is my commitment as secretary-general; this is a United Nations priority.”
Ban met with Somali transitional President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali and Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden in the Somali presidential palace.
He also spoke with officials from AMISOM, troops deployed by the African Union to support the Transitional Federal Government, or TFG. The United Nations facilitated the formation of the TFG through a lengthy negotiation process that began about a decade ago.
Analyst Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad, head of the research group Southlink based in Kenya, says he thinks moving the United Nations’ political office to Mogadishu is a vote of confidence for the TFG.
“That is a step forward in the right direction because right now Mogadishu is under the total control of the TFG. It is a clear indication now, this time around, that the U.N. is serious about Somali issues. At least they are going to have the closest office to the people of Somalia,” he said.
Abdiwahab says Kenya’s recent decision to send forces to the 12,000-strong AMISOM force - also consisting of troops from Burundi and Uganda - was a logical move.
“Kenya is one of the front-line states. The war is costly. Kenyans, they are looking for logistical support from AMISOM. They cannot stay in Somalia indefinitely. They cannot stay in Somalia for another two to three years because of the economy.”
Ban also praised Kenya for its recent decision to dispatch troops to the AMISOM mission, and thanked the governments of Burundi and Uganda for contributing troops.
The U.N. secretary-general stressed that all parties must move ahead quickly with the so-called “Roadmap,” a detailed plan on how move the government from being transitional to permanent. The deadline is August 20 of next year. The Roadmap is expected to end with the holding of democratic elections.
Ban’s visit marks the first time that a U.N. secretary-general has visited Somalia since 1993.
Somalia’s civil war dates back to 1991 with the overthrow of then-President Mohamed Siad Barre. Throughout the years, the war has taken on different dimensions and combatants.
The current conflict involves clashes between the TFG and the militant group al-Shabab, which wants to impose strict Islamic law in Somalia.