In Mogadishu UN Emergency Relief Coordinator urges aid to civilians

12 May 2007The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator today became the highest-ranking UN official to visit Somalia’s capital Mogadishu since the early 1990s, and amid continued violence called for increased relief aid to civilians there. The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator today became the highest-ranking UN official to visit Somalia’s capital Mogadishu since the early 1990s, and amid continued violence called for increased relief aid to civilians there.John Holmes undertook the mission to assess the humanitarian situation in the areas affected by the recent fighting, to commit parties in Somalia to respect International Humanitarian Law, and to encourage authorities to allow full and unhindered humanitarian access to populations in dire need of assistance and protection. “It is the authorities’ responsibility to look after civilians, to protect civilians and at the very least not to obstruct aid,” Mr. Holmes said. He noted that access and insecurity have impeded the provision of humanitarian assistance commensurate with the needs of the population. During his visit, Mr. Holmes met President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi. The USG highlighted his concerns about the severity and magnitude of the crisis and stressed that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) must provide a more enabling operating environment for aid workers. On its part, the TFG noted its desire to cooperate with international organizations. Mr. Holmes also visited a cholera treatment centre which has admitted 308 patients just in the last month, as well as a former embassy now hosting 150 displaced families, some for as long as 17 years. Many are pastoralists and agro-pastoralists who have lost their livelihoods, who are unable to find work in the capital, and who lack the means to return to their former lives. In addition, he met with representatives of civil society in the capital, including elders and women’s groups. Together, they discussed the dire situation that has prevailed in Mogadishu. “I feel enormous sympathy for the suffering that the Somali people have endured,” Mr. Holmes said. “I am here to help, and I will continue to advocate tirelessly on their behalf,” he concluded. A bomb exploded a few minutes after Mr. Holmes arrived in the Somali capital, and two other bombs went off within half an hour, all on the path of his itinerary. Personnel from the Africa Union Mission to Somalia defused a fourth explosive device, also on the route of his itinerary. Mr. Holmes returned to Nairobi today, and plans for a second day in Somalia were cancelled. Mr. Holmes will continue his mission, traveling to Uganda from 14 to 16 May, where he will conduct discussions in the capital, Kampala, and travel to new settlement sites and camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kitgum District in northern Uganda. read more

East Timor UN official hails civility and peacefulness in leadup to elections

“Through their participation in community debates, the constitutional commissions’ hearings, and actually inviting various parties to present their points of view, [the East Timorese] have proved once again to the world that they are ready to be active participants in deciding what type of country they want and how it should be administered,” said Carlos Valenzuela, Chief Electoral Officer for the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).Speaking at a press conference in Dili, Mr. Valenzuela noted that there had been very few allegations of incidents between political parties. “I can say that in over 14 elections in which I have worked, I have never seen such a peaceful and orderly campaign,” he said.Approximately 425,000 East Timorese are eligible to vote in the ballot, which will elect an 88-member Assembly that will have 90 days to write and adopt a constitution for an independent and democratic East Timor.Meanwhile over the weekend, the head of UNTAET, Sergio Vieira de Mello, expressed satisfaction with the announcement by East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmão that he would agree to be a candidate in a future presidential election.”I am extremely delighted,” Mr. Vieira de Mello said Saturday afternoon. “This is the right decision. It will appease and give confidence to the people of East Timor, helping to dissipate the climate of uncertainty and speculation that we have had over the past few months.”Mr. Vieira de Mello, the heads of 15 political parties and national and district independent candidates for Thursday’s elections were present when Mr. Gusmão, the former head of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) and National Council President, publicly announced his decision.”I declare here and now that I will accept to be nominated by the parties to the office of President of the Republic of East Timor, if the same parties commit themselves to accepting the outcome of the elections,” Mr. Gusmão said.”This means that each party must promote, through their structures at the grassroots level, the policy of tolerance and of mutual respect, in the democratic spirit which we are all engaged in developing,” he added. read more