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UN Human Rights office calls for international action to achieve peace in Somalia

After witnessing first-hand the devastation of the conflict in Somalia, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang has called for concerted efforts to tackle decades of impunity in the horn of Africa nation.

Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang in Somaliland. © OHCHR Photo/Scott CampbellAt the end of a three-day visit to Kenya, Somaliland and Puntland, Kang said: “Such a brief mission of course allows me to only scratch the surface of what is a complex situation resulting from prolonged conflict, but I do come away with a profound sense that we can – and must – do more now to contribute to Somali efforts to create a peaceful and prosperous country in the long run.”

During her visit to Somalia, Kang met with victims fleeing fresh violence in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, human rights defenders, politicians, civil society groups and the international community. 

Meets Victims

She told the story of a woman who has been displaced with her three young children, during fighting in the capital Mogadishu.  

“Her husband had been killed three months earlier due to the fighting and her oldest son wounded. She described to me the indiscriminate nature of the violence in Mogadishu,” said Kang.

She decried the victims’ insecurity amid the heavy fighting, with bullets everywhere and firing of missiles between the Al Shabaab, the TFG (Transitional Federal Government), and AMISOM (Africa Union Peacekeeping Mission).

She added: “It is difficult to find words strong enough to condemn the ruthless attacks and abuses against civilians by the Al Shabaab and other armed groups that have caused this forced displacement, as well as their cowardly attacks against AMISOM peacekeepers. It is disheartening that such attacks are ongoing.”

The senior Human Rights official said she was encouraged by the commitment from AMISOM leadership to take steps to ensure that their soldiers respond with the utmost respect for civilians and international humanitarian law. She called for a closer collaboration between the United Nations and the African Union in preventing and responding to the allegations of excesses by AMISOM.

But despite the desperation and state of anarchy, the Deputy High Commissioner said she observed the willingness of the Somali people to restore their nation.

“Somalis have made it clear that they have the courage and ability to do much inside their country today. We on the outside must find the will and means to match that courage,” Kang said.

She expressed the UN Human Rights office’s commitment to work with Somalis and members of the international community to combat one of the key roots of the conflict, “an embedded culture of impunity.”

“Addressing the continuing cycle of impunity and violence should be a cornerstone in the foundation of building peace in Somalia. And it should serve as a deterrent to would-be violators that they will be held to account.”

Kang lauded stability and development progress in Somalia’s two autonomous states of Somaliland and Puntland over the past years as well as their commitment to the cause of the promotion and protection of human rights reiterated during the visit by the senior Puntland authorities in Garowe and the President of Somaliland and his new Government.

Kang urged Somali leaders from all sides – and in particular the Transitional Federal Government – to put aside self-interest and work with more intensity towards an inclusive and sustainable peace.

16 September 2010

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