Hargeisa, 28 July 2009 (Somalilandpress) – The United Nations has suspended its activities in Somalia in the town of Baidoa town, southwestern Somalia after their premises were raided by armed militia.

The Al-Shabab militia has accused some branches of the UN of acting against the country’s interests. Nevertheless the UN’s special envoy to Somalia, Ahmadou Ould Abdallah, is still optimistic that the UN will continue to help Somalia, victim of a civil war. Abdallah responded to questions fielded by RFI’s Olivier Roger.

Identity of looters questioned

[Roger] Good morning Ahmadou Ould Abdallah

[Abdallah] Good morning.

[Roger] The Al-Shabab militia is now taking on the UN in Somalia, since they have looted several offices in Baydhabo. Will the UN withdraw from Somalia because of the raids?

[Abdallah] Personally my assessment of the whole situation is to not fall into the trap of giving free publicity to groups of people who seek to disguise their illegal activities under the banner of religion or politics. Therefore we are going to check who is behind the communique and raids before an assessment is carried out on what we plan to do. Moreover on our part, there is certainly no raison for the UN to desist from helping famine and disease victims. There is no reason.

[Roger] Do you know what happened in Baydhabo at the beginning of the week?

[Abdallah] It is certain that unidentified elements took cars and looted property. We are endeavouring to get more details, I want to find out exactly who is behind this. If it is an identified organization, then I will see how to contact them so they can return the property which does not belong to them and if it is another activity which has no links to organized political or religious groups, it will be another story. This is not the first time that raids have taken place. Recently in Mogadishu people stole an electricity generator weighing several tons.

[Roger] However the Al-Shabab militia has claimed responsibility for the closure of UN offices in Baydhabo claiming that the offices were acting against the interest of the Somali state. What do you make of such statements?

[Abdallah] Yes I also saw those statements but I do not want to give credit to a statement which we have not authenticated.

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[Roger] Why do those people pursue the World Food Organization for example? Could it be that Al-Shabab is using some UN organizations to grab goods meant for distribution to the population for themselves?

[Abdallah] It is a feeling shared by many which we will verify. Even in a stable secure country, food-aid is often misappropriated. You can therefore imagine, what happens in a country where security is precarious and extremely fragile. Somalia has been victimized by one part of its population which has taken it hostage and we are going to work out our response.

Lack of consensus in Transitional Federal Government?

[Roger] Precisely, how do you respond. Currently, you have attempted successful political response with the agreements of May 2008 which brought [Transitional Government leader] Shaykh Sharif [Shaykh Ahmad] to power. Obviously something has not been working for several months. We believed that there was a consensus behind Shaykh Sharif, but it is not working. Therefore what do you believe has to happen?

[Abdallah] First of all, I believe it is working. What is not working is that after 20 years of war, we cannot expect to achieve peace overnight. There are people who made the war including raids linked to the war, a way of life. These people and groups have sought to destabilize the government since 7 May and have not succeeded. The government maintained control. There is no doubt that it received foreign support such as the Afghan government and elsewhere such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and eastern DRCongo. However, it is a government that is determined to continue to protect the population and extend a hand to all those interested. A political dialogue is needed, which continues and that is what the government continues to pursue. However I do not believe that any Somali individual has the right to veto.

Possible UN military intervention

[Roger] For the past few months, the UN has been considering a possible intervention in Somalia, is a UN military intervention still on the cards or was the idea abandoned?

[Abdallah] A UN military intervention is still on the cards although right now it is not a priority. Our priority right now is to strengthen the government, its security forces, to train them, equip them and encourage the AU forces which are doing a remarkable job in difficult conditions, to help their Somali brothers.

[Roger] Is that working though when clearly the Somali government has difficulty maintaining control within Mogadishu where government buildings are established?

[Abdallah] It is certain that after two decades of violence a government will not function normally overnight even by African standards. It needs help in order to function and show that it is no longer going to be business as usual for each group under a different name who wish to impose their own laws, trade and activities.

The UN, in my opinion and also in my personal capacity, have a responsibility towards the Somali people and region, what is happening in Somalia such as abuse, violence, misery is unacceptable. The regional and international community are paying a heavy price with piracy being one element, acts of violence have proved it as well.

[Roger] Thank you very much Ahmadou Ould Abdallah.

By Abdinasir Mohamed
Email: abdinasir4@gmail.com