Somalia

Somalia: Humanitarian access urgent

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The Security Council and the international community must work for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Mogadishuto secure humanitarian access to displaced populations, urges the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

- All parties to the conflict and the international community must work to initiate an all inclusive peace process to avoid clan warfare in South Central Somalia, said NRC's International Director, Jens Mjaugedalahead of the UN Security Council's meeting on Somalia Tuesday 24 April. The Norwegian aid organisation also asks the Security Council to strengthen the AU mission's mandate to include the protection of civilians.

- In its present form, the AU's mandate of protection does not cover general protection of civilians and those facing violence. Civilian protection needs to become one of the primary objectives of the AU mission, said Mjaugedal.

The humanitarian crisis in Somaliais alarming, warns NRC, which is working to start up relief projects in Mogadishuand surrounding areas. Fighting between the Ethiopian-backed government forces and Islamic groups in Mogadishuhas intensified, and the current level of fighting can be described as the worst in 16 years. Over 320,000 people have fled Mogadishuand become internally displaced since the beginning of February, but humanitarian access to the displaced population is limited due to the poor security situation in the South Central region.

- The future of peacekeeping in Somalia, whether under the AU or the UN, must be viewed in this context of worsening insecurity, general lawlessness, public hostility to foreign troops and a mounting insurgency, said Mjaugedal, highlighting NRC's recommendations to the Security Council regarding the critical humanitarian situation in Somalia and the discussion on potential deployment of a UN peacekeeping force:

1.Urgent need for an inclusive Peace Process: Humanitarian access and safe passage for humanitarian agencies are contingent upon an immediate cessation of hostilities and initiation of an all inclusive peace process. The engagement of local clan elders to negotiate a ceasefire is critical in this respect.

2. AU Mandate must include protection of civilians: The Security Council should strengthen the AU mission's mandate. Without the full authorisation under Chapter VII, the ability of the AU troops, or any other international force, to provide protection to civilians will remain extremely limited, regardless of its size.

3. UN Peacekeepers must be considered with caution: In the absence of a peace process and without having first evaluated the impact and performance of the AU mission, it would be premature for the UN to commit its peacekeeping force to Somalia.

For the latest update on internal displacement in Somalia, see www.internal-displacement.org

Please contact siri.elverland@nrc.no for the complete policy position paper.

Contact:

Patrik Ekløf, Head of AfricaSection
Telephone:+47 93 26 26 85

Siri Elverland, Press Advisor
Telephone:+47 93 21 82 19