Somalia (June 1996)
by Humanitarian Practice Network June 1996

One senior UN official recently described the situation facing Somalia: “we’re caught between the emergency budget (because) we’re not quite bad enough and the development budget (because) we’re not quite good enough”, adding “Somalia is not really in the rehabilitation phase – there’s too much instability”. The Security Council President, John Weston publicly acknowledged the need to continue assistance to the country and supports plans to open a UN political office for Somalia in Nairobi to monitor developments and establish contact with major factions.

Insecurity continues, with militias of General Aideed and Osman Atto fighting for control of most strategic parts of Mogadishu and surrounding areas. The main port in Mogadishu remains closed since the pull-out of UNOSOM one year ago. With the closure of the port, aid agencies are unable to get supplies in-country fast enough and malnutrition rates are growing.

National reconciliation is a long way off, despite last August’s meeting between 12 Somali factions and Farah Aideed’s pledge to hold free and fair elections within 3 years, and the potential for a return to full-scale civil war remains a serious threat according to UN sources. However, while an internally recognised national government does not appear to be an option at present, conditions vary greatly within the country: local peace conferences have been held by elders in many districts and in 68 out of 77 (April 1996), district councils have been set up, many of which are functioning as local governments. While it is true to say there is no national government in Somalia, many of these councils represent effective government and constitute a practical counterpart for international agencies and NGOs offering assistance to Somali people.