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UN's Man in Somalia Says To Embrace and Not Question the Baidoa Government
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
UNITED NATIONS, March 2 -- Jump in and take a side. That was the message of Eric Laroche, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Somalia, speaking to reporters on March 1. Mr. Laroche chided most "international NGOs" for not being where the humanitarian problems are. He urged the media to stop referring to the Transitional Federal Institutions, restored to power by the Ethiopian Army, as a weak government. "Call it the to-be-strong government," he said, adding that "today there is no other alternative to chaos than to support the Institutions."
Inner City Press asked about a letter from French NGO Action Contre La Faim which decried the UN's blurring of humanitarian needs and "other political agendas." Video here, from Minute 52:24 to 55:20.
"Are you the one who asked the Secretary-General?" Yes. "I am happy to answer to you." Mr. Laroche said that humanitarianism and politics are very difficult to separate.
"If I want to have more victims today, I just drop the [Transitional Federal] Institutions and we go back to chaos," he said. He added that even the 8,000 peacekeepers called for in the Security Council resolution would be barely enough. The four thousand actually slated to deploy will not be enough, he said. "Forget about it. It is not enough."
Mr. Laroche told the media to "stop saying that the government is weak, because I don't think that it helps." Several reporters pointed out that they aim, or should aim, to report how things are, not how they might be in the future. Mr. Laroche countered that "as weak at the Institutions may appear to the Somali people or to you, there is no other way today."
He acknowledged that this government remains based in Baidoa, and that Somalis are fleeing Mogadishu as it has re-descended into chaos. He spoke of a TFI-sponsored conference in April and said that elements of the Islamic Courts Union might or might not attend. Mr. Laroche appeared to take no position on whether the ICU should be included. One wondered, if the UN so unequivocally embraces the Transitional Federal Government, why should it speak to its perceived enemies?
Even Francois Lonseny Fall, the UN's other man in, or about, Somalia, says that there should be a process included the moderate elements of the Islamic Courts. Ban Ki-moon has given the same answer. And so while freelancing Indiana Joneses are always appreciated, this may be a sidebar version of Jan Egeland meeting with the Lord's Resistance Army.
To some, Mr. Laroche appears to have conflated a location -- Mogadishu -- with a casting of political lots with a Transitional Federal Government which has still not reached out to important segments of Somali society, and which still has to gain trust and credibility, given that it is only in Mogadishu due to the Ethiopian Army. It is one thing for Mr. Laroche to urge international NGOs to come back to Mogadishu. But why should they accept his admonition to not speak ill of the government? Developing...
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Source: Inner City Press