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Speaker Events - Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mahiga: Somali Famine a Tragedy, But Also an Opportunity

Speaking on September 20th in the latest in the series of SRSG meetings at IPI, Augustine Mahiga, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Somalia, noted that the country had been without a government and in a state of continuing conflict for nearly 20 years, but said there were three recent developments there that made him optimistic about the future.

“The first one is there is a new opportunity of a more inclusive political process which is unfolding in a manner that has never unfolded before,” he said.

“The second,” he said, “is that the security situation in Mogadishu and Somalia is better today than it has ever been in the past 21 years.”

“The third is an irony,” he said.

“The famine is a tragedy, but the famine has given us an opportunity that feeds positively on the political process and on the security situation; first of all, because it refocuses attention on Somalia. As you said, there is not much attention. Secondly, because the famine has contributed to the weakness of the Al-Shabaab, that helps on the area of security.”

With this improvement and the recent withdrawal of the Al-Shabaab insurgents from large parts of the capital, Mr. Mahiga said that the UN was able to establish more and more of a presence in Mogadishu, though it still had to operate out of Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya.

“But to monitor what is happening, there is still a problem, “he added. “Access is conditional; security is tenuous. And this is where our biggest challenge is.”

Moderating the discussion was IPI Senior Adviser John Hirsch.

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