Opening remarks by SRSG Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah to the International Contact Group on Somalia

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Jeddah, 17 December 2009 - I would like to thank all our friends and partners from here and far away, the Somali Prime Minister, the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference, Ministers and Ambassadors, for coming here. Welcome to you all and all my thanks to the OIC and to Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu personally for his unstinting support and above all for his understanding of the Somali tragedy.

I would like to thank the OIC representative during the discussion in Djibouti for his assistance, persistence and help working with the Somalis to support all of us to advance and reach the point where we are today. In Brussels we benefited from the OIC representatives and their presence showed the commitment of the OIC.

I am grateful to the Kingdom for accepting that this meeting takes place here in Jeddah. Without the generous hospitality of the Kingdom, particularly of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, we would not have been able to move ahead and I am grateful to His Majesty for his patience despite many disappointments in the past. His forgiveness was and is still needed to help Somalia to embark on the long and difficult road towards peace and stability.

The situation in Somalia appears most discouraging to everyone and every Government. We agree on this. However this is why we are here, so that we are not discouraged and keep moving ahead. We can not give up on our moral obligations and responsibilities. We can not leave the victims to their oppressors who do not shy from claiming ownership of the abuse committed. Apparently they fear no retribution.

When a group of students at Benadir University were murdered a few days ago with their families and relatives, it was a call for all of us to see Somalia as it is - a serious threat to itself, to its people and to the region, in particular, IGAD. Through piracy and other actions, we know now that Somalia is a threat to peace, international stability and freedom of trade and commerce. Today the international community is present through many channels, in particular the OIC, African Union, EU, IGAD, League of Arab States and other organizations. We have to take into account all these considerations. If we abandon Somalia, we expose all to the threats and expose the vulnerabilities of the countries represented here to more risks and even attacks.

The suicide bomber who killed innocent students and their parents in Mogadishu on 3 December was a Somali coming from Denmark. What happened in Somalia could have happened in Copenhagen or any capital in the world. I consider Somalia hostage to a small number of individuals. I think that after 20 years of working on Somalia, we can not give up on our obligations. To that end, we have to ask why we are in Somalia and should not forget what our objectives are, which are not to study tribes, or sub clans or to enforce democracy. It is not to provide humanitarian assistance although that is indispensable. We are in Somalia to help the Government be a more credible partner to its own people, and to the international community and to live in peace with its people and the region. We need the region to support the Government and gradually make it as responsible as possible. The debate today about Afghanistan is a stark reminder of what we should do or avoid in Somalia if we do not want to keep turning around. For that, we think in my office that it is important not only to listen to the voices of Somalis, but to the voice of the region. We think IGAD needs to be listened to. They are on the front line, exposed to the flow of refugees and insecurity. We need to listen to and support the African Union which has a physical presence in AMISOM helping us and enabling us to visit Mogadishu and to show solidarity. There is no doubt that there are spoilers who are known inside and outside, they are limited in number, just five to seven individuals and their associates. If we mean action, we have to address these people and their sponsors.

Meanwhile, every effort should be made by the international community to move to Mogadishu to be closer to the victims. If we continue to make Somalia a case study, it will be a case study on how we operate.

Dear Colleagues

We need concrete proposals on how to help the Government establish a more functioning administration:

1. The Government should be supported in its outreach and its efforts to meet those non armed and armed groups who are in Somalia. However, calling for conference after conference has become an easy slogan but we should not accept it because it will not be a channel for peace but a business and a new beginning of violence, I think it should be clear: we have to respect the Somalis. After two decades of war they need a more functioning Government and we should help them by paying allowances to parliamentarians and security forces. Since its beginning, this Government has been able to move to the capital and through its own resources, through taxes on the port and airport, to pay Ministers, Parliamentarians and the security forces. They have received some assistance but most of work has been paid for by the Government. They were on the right path until May when they were brutally assaulted by a group, the majority of whose leadership came from outside, trying to take power by force. They resisted successfully.

We have to help and expect this Government to be a normal Government. We need more effort from it but we also need more tolerance from us towards it. In order to reach our own objectives we have to have a stable partner. We need to help this Government, not because Somalis should be rewarded for taking up arms for 20 years, but because the Government is engaged and needs to disseminate further its peace message to the population and the diaspora. The diaspora is clearly important. There is a large number of diaspora in Parliament and the Government. They send $1.2 billion to their relatives in Somalia annually, more than all external assistance. Sometimes part of it falls in the wrong hands, but overall the diaspora supports the Government and peace.

2. We need to recognise the high priority given to education by this Government. It may be a mid to long term priority, but I am very happy that the Government is emphasizing this area and that makes the murder of students last week an awful action.

3. I would like to insist on the importance of supporting AMISOM and accelerating payment to the troops.

4. We also need to take action regarding the defectors. This is a difficult matter as many of our regulations are stuck back in the 20th century. We can not help defectors because they are not IDPs, or part of disarmament programmes, or refugees. Our working methods need to be reviewed if we would like to be helpful and relevant.

In conclusion, in Somalia, we are still facing an emergency situation. I think this should strengthen our determination to make the Government a more credible partner. For that, acting quickly in all circumstances, is essential.

Thank you again, and I am sure that this meeting will lead to concrete conclusions.