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  • Title: [SW News](UN IRIN/Africa News) IRIN Interview with UN Representative David Stephen - Part II
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  • Date :[09 May 2000]

 IRIN Interview with UN Representative David Stephen - Part II

Story Filed: Tuesday, May 09, 2000 1:31 PM EST

Nairobi (UN Integrated Regional Information Network, May 9, 2000) - The following is the second part of an interview with David Stephen, the Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia. Stephen spoke to IRIN about the Somali peace talks before leaving for Djibouti.


Q: What would you personally hope to see come out of the talks?

A: I want them to be successful, personally and officially, and the UN will assist in every way possible. It is a very unusual process because it has the support of the people. It is questioned by SOME of the leaders - although I have to stress that the line, or the language, used by some of the leaders should be seen as part of a political process rather than definitive statements.

We saw that when Abdullahi Yusuf (Puntland) came out against it, there were demonstrations. There were demonstrations in Mogadishu when Hussein Aideed came out against the process. There were even demonstrations in Bakool when Shatu Madood came out against it. Now Shatu Madood is giving it his support, and now there is a strong delegation from Puntland in Arta, Djibouti. Many people who are close to Aideed are there, although not Hussein Aideed himself.

It is trying to learn the lessons of the past and move away from leader- based processes to grassroots-based processes. In that context ofcourse, some of the political leaders are armed, so we hope the clans will move toward peace and disarm their own armed branches. There will be a problem if they do not do so.

My hope is that the international community will respond at the right moment and will assist the Somalis in that process, so that we face disarmament and the formation of a national force - a national defence force or a national police force to protect the country.

This will not be an international peace keeping force. That is not on the agenda. There will not even be a regional peacekeeping force. What they will need is assistance in verifying a process which is going to be Somali this time.

Q: Do you not think the UN and the humanitarian community would be more in a position to encourage positive developments in Somalia if it was based there instead of in Nairobi?

A: I strongly agree with that. The UN withdrew from Somalia in March 1995 after the collapse of UNOSOM. At that stage two of the then-major warlords, General Mohamed Farah Aideed and Ali Mahdi, said they did not want the UN there. They said they could not guarantee the safety of the UN. The then- Secretary-General (Boutros) Boutros Ghali said the UN would return when conditions allowed it. That is over four years ago.

Now there are cases of violence in Somalia, but one could say the civil war has largely run its course. Most of the Somalis do not have a stomach for civil war as such. We do have on-going problems - like land taken by one clan from another. We do have a lot of arms in the society and a lot of banditry. But in Mogadishu, in particular, there does seem to be a complete change since 1995. This is partly the result of the Djibouti process and partly the result of the information getting through the new media there. I very much hope we can look forward to returning to Somalia this year, as a UN family. But if the process fails or it goes badly wrong - I would say this as a general conclusion - then we are looking something very, very serious in the eye. We are looking at the failure of the international community to assist sufficiently a people who are without a government, without institutions - which I believe has many lessons for the rest of Africa.

One of the problems with Somalia is that it is seen as a failure of the UN and of the international community. If you look at it as a case where warlordism has failed to provide a way forward then you have to do something new. That is what we are trying. If that fails and you have a people without a nation, who are just going to try and continue to fend for themselves, then that is going to be a very serious warning for the rest of Africa.

Most people in Somalia are untouched by government and have no education or health services. There are some facilities that are run by the private sector that work well, like telecommunications, but the vast majority of people are subsisting in an environment which is deteriorating. The humanitarian situation is a product of political circumstances ...(and) ... one effect of the lack of government is the total lack of protection of the environment (including) indiscriminate fishing in territorial waters.

If the Djibouti process takes off there will be a bandwagon for peace and there will be more resources for the international community to go back and contribute. Many, many aid agencies, NGO's, foreign governments have had their fingers burned in Somalia - there is great hesitation because of the violence and the looting. If there is a Djibouti process and the people are seen to support it, the conditions would be right for our return.

Q: Why has the UN failed in Somalia?

A: The problem is that Somalia at the end of the Cold War ceased to be of strategic interest to any major power. Before, it was fought over by the superpowers. So one of the problems is indifference.

The other issue is one of conceptualisation. If you define the problem in Somalia as one of warlordism and try and deal with that, you're missing the crucial point that it is a collapse of institutions.

It was the massive intervention that was designed to put back a state that failed. That is unfortunate. I think I am right in saying that UNOSOM 2 was the largest-ever peacekeeping operation - I think the total, which was never reached, was to be 40,000 peacekeepers. We have now gone to a situation were there is minimal UN involvement in Somalia. My office is microscopic compared to UNOSOM. We are a very small observer mission, a political reporting mission.

The Somalis have had several years of hell, I think, to reflect. I think the atmosphere now is very positive.

This item is delivered by the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit (e- mail: irin@ocha.unon.org; fax: +254 2 622129; Web: http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN), but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.

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