UNITED NATIONS. "WAKE UP SOMALIS." SECRETARY GENERAL BAN LED BY COURAGEOUS EXAMPLE, WOULD OTHER SENIOR OFFICIALS FOLLOW?

 

15 DECEMBER 2011

"WAKE UP SOMALIS." SECRETARY GENERAL BAN LED BY COURAGEOUS EXAMPLE, WOULD OTHER SENIOR OFFICIALS FOLLOW?

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's recent visit to Somalia was the best positive event to happen in that country in twenty years.

The national anthem starts with the words: "Soomaaliyeey toosoo," Somali's Awake. Its chorus urges them to "support one another, support your country, support it forever." As if foreseeing the tragic events in the last 25 years, the anthem, written in the 40's and adopted officially on Independence Day 20 September, 1960, pleaded: "Stop fighting each other, come back with strength and joy and be friends again. It's time to look forward and take command. Defeat your real enemies by uniting again. Become strong again and again."

In a historic and symbolic visit 9 December 2011 -- a first in 18 years -- the Secretary General not only signaled U.N. solidarity with a long-suffering people, but also high-lighted the inevitable need for their unity to support their country. He may not have been aware of their national anthem -- long overlooked -- yet he almost pronounced it to the Somalis and to the world. He also stressed the brief "window of opportunity," of seizing the moment, the limited time available at a critical juncture. "It must be done in an inclusive and transparent way," he stressed.

Will the conflicting Somali factions seize that critical moment? Will the neighbouring countries allow them to do so by refraining from provocative moves and incitement of proxies? Will big power politics give the U.N. Secretary General adequate leeway to operate through that limited window of opportunity? Will the Secretary General's Special Representative Augustine Mahiga move to Mogadishu full-time with a complete team or merely have a symbolic presence citing security reasons? Will his work gain the respect of varying factions in an inclusive approach? His predecessor, who spent more time in New York (Cipriani Downtown!) than in Mogadishu, had unified the Somalis in their hatred for him; will Ambassador Mahiga unify them in affection, credibility, and respect for the U.N.?

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has led by example. He has taken an obvious risk for peace in Somali. Yet as the symbolic leader of the international community, he has so many other urgent issues to follow. Pending action to move ahead in Somalia will certainly rest with credible serious actions by the Somalis. Similarly, it depends on effective follow-up and enlightened action by distinguished senior U.N. officials. The Secretary General has demonstrated leadership by example. Will other senior U.N. officers sustain the momentum?