15 May 2007


Every Somali knows the national anthem. Children at school. Grown-ups at home. Army officers of all ranks. Even warlords gunning for any piece of the action they can get at the expense of their own people. They all sing: Wake up Somalia; Join hands together.

"Somaliya toosoo.
Tooso isku tiersada ee
Hadba kiina taag daranee
Taageera waliginee."

No doubt Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon meant very well when only three days after taking over he issued an unsolicited statement on 4 January indicating that he has been "closely" following developments in Somalia and expressing a belief that a "new opportunity many exist...etc." By 23 April, he had to issue a totally different statement on how he was "gravely concerned" about the continued heavy fighting which reportedly killed more than 250 people and forced more than 320,000 from their homes over the last six days alone. Two weeks earlier High Commissioner for Human Rights indicated that 100,000 had fled Mogadishu over the past two months -- that is immediately following that "window" indicated by our distinguished Secretary General. Alas, there was no window, but more trouble. These failed projections may sound trivial in New York, but they are a matter of life and death in Somalia where the U.N. seems increasingly clueless.

A main question is: where is the U.N. Special Representative? What is his advice? Does he really have a clue? Why does he totally disappear when drastically needed? Why does he only show up during a few days of relative calm to tell the media about "the grave concern of the Security Council," as if those exchanging fire are holding their breath to hear his latest pearls of wisdom!

Francois Lonseny Fall must believe that meeting the President and Prime Minister and a pontificating appeal would be enough for him to claim that he was doing the best he can. Meanwhile, it is obvious, as Bill Spinder of UNHCR explained, that families who used to live in neighborhoods affected by fighting are still reluctant to return precisely because of the reported presence of soldiers of the Transitional Government and allied Ethiopian troops. "Civilians fear that should they go back they might be caught once more in the crossfire." Furthermore those over 250,000 internally displaced during previous conflicts have not been able to return to their homes because their houses have been destroyed by mortar shelling or because they can no longer access the place where they need to live because of insecurity.

But that does not faze Monsieur Fall, as long as he can masquerade as an international special envoy discussing matters with members of the Security Council in New York.

The new Secretary General indicated that Africa will be a priority. He seems to be taking the right steps on Darfur despite inevitable setbacks. Making arrangements in collaboration with Saudi King Abdullah at the Arab Summit was a creative move. Involving Egypt's President Mubarak, African Union Konare and Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa proved effective enough to move forward. But on Somalia, the U.N. looks out of the loop to the point of ridicule.

While Mr. Ban has promised continuity, he also promised change. If for some reason he does not wish to change Falfall; at least WAKE HIM UP!