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[Dehai-WN] (IRIN): SOMALIA: Military emphasis at conference "puts more civilians at risk"

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Sun, 26 Feb 2012 00:10:38 +0100

SOMALIA: Military emphasis at conference "puts more civilians at risk"

LONDON, 25 February 2012 (IRIN) - The London Conference on Somalia ended
with a <http://world.myjoyonline.com/pages/news/201202/82024.php>
seven-point plan aimed at boosting humanitarian aid and support for African
Union troops, and tougher action on piracy, but "fell short on the measures
required to address the risks faced by civilians", said Amnesty

"The recent surge in military operations increases civilians' vulnerability
to attacks and displacement, and brings more arms into a country already
awash with weapons," said Benedicte Goderiaux, Amnesty International's
Somalia researcher.

"This is a lethal mix that could fuel further human rights abuses. At this
conference we hoped to see more efforts to improve the safety of the Somali

Delegates to the 23 February conference included UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the African Union and Arab
League and regional presidents, a small Somali team including the president,
prime minister and speaker of the Transitional Federal Government - as well
as new players, such as Qatar and Turkey.

One speaker after another urged Somalia's Transitional Federal Government
(TFG) to sort out the <http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=94926>
political situation, and quickly. Clinton said: "Time is of the essence and
I want to be clear, the international community will not support an
extension of the TFG's mandate beyond the date set in the roadmap, 20
August... It is time - past time - to buckle down and do the work that will
bring stability to Somalia for the first time in many people's lives...
Attempts to obstruct progress and maintain the broken status quo will not be

Turkey is now very active in Somalia, and its foreign minister, Ahmet
Davutoglu, urged his colleagues to be less fearful. "We have to be visible
and present on the ground. We cannot have conferences distant from Somalia.
All of us, we have to be present there... And here we call on all
participant countries to open embassies. This is psychologically very
important to give the impression that things will be getting normalized in

Talking to Al-Shabab?

The Qatari minister, Dr Khalid bin Mohammed al Attiyah, implicitly called
for Al-Shabab to be part of the process of boosting confidence and
<http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=94917> inclusion among all
Somali parties. "The exclusion of any party at this stage will disrupt these
efforts," he said, "and render any talk about security and stability
unrealistic and inconsistent with the realities on the ground in Somalia."

But Clinton "adamantly opposed" any engagement with Al-Shabab, although
there were signs that not all America's European partners would be as
absolute. Italy's foreign minister, Giuliomaria Terzi, pointed out that the
insurgents still controlled more than a third of Somalia and added, "Their
capacity to control that territory does not lie solely in coercion."

The main emphasis of the meeting, however, was on military solutions,
worrying for humanitarian agencies trying to work on both sides of the lines
in the south and centre of the country. TFG Prime Minister, Abdiweli Mohamed
Ali, endorsed the idea of targeted air strikes on those he described as part
of Al-Qaeda.

AMISOM mandate

There was a general welcome for the Security Council resolution extending
the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), with its
promise of more stable funding, extra equipment and more troops. The Kenyans
already operating in Somalia (although not their Ethiopian colleagues) will
now be "rehatted" as part of the AMISOM forces.

President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia
both made much of their troops' successes in recent days, the capture of
Baidoa and the extension of what they see as liberated areas in the south.
The host of the meeting, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, announced the
creation of a Stability Fund for these areas now on the transitional
government side of the lines, to which Britain, the Netherlands, Norway,
Denmark and the United Arab Emirates would contribute.

"This is absolutely vital," said Cameron, "for those areas which have been
freed of Al-Shabab control, to help people build safer, better governed
areas, and show those people in the areas still held by Al-Shabab that there
is a better alternative."

Help for refugees

These areas are also being eyed by Kenya, which is chafing under the burden
of hosting the vast Dadaab refugee camp near its eastern border with
Somalia. Kibaki said: "Kenya expects this conference to map out firm and
durable solutions, including the return of these populations to their home
country... The humanitarian actors should now take advantage of the areas
secured from Al-Shabab to settle these populations. This is a matter of
utmost urgency, as Kenya can no longer continue carrying the burden
occasioned by this situation."

However, Rahma Ahmed, coordinator of the Somali Relief and Development
Forum, told IRIN: "We believe that neither the sharp deterioration in the
security situation in Dadaab, nor the changing, but unstable situation
within Somalia - including areas identified by the government of Kenya for
repatriation - are conditions which might trigger a repatriation programme
which would comply with international refugee and human rights law."

Britain will give three-year support packages to help with the refugees -
more than US$56 million to Kenya and more than $23 million to Ethiopia. A
spokesman for Britain's Department for International Development told IRIN
this was not intended as money for repatriation; it was meant to be spent in
the refugee camps, where it was hoped that it would improve conditions.


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