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'Details on UN Peacekeeping Mission is Essential' Elder Said
Speaking to Shabelle radio, the first assistant chairman of the Hawiye Cultural and Unity Council, Jim'ale Mahmud Nur, has asked the UN to give additional information about the UN peacekeepers expected to be deployed in Somalia, their functions, the countries they will be coming from and when they will eventually withdraw.
He said the peacekeepers should be neutral in the Somali conflict and should be accepted by the civilian population.
The clan elder added that the peacekeepers should not side with one particular group in the conflict.
"If they come in, it would be best if more details were given, those contributing to the force, how they will maintain peace, their deployment and their withdrawal. That is what we would prefer" Nor said.
The statement by the Hawiye Cultural and Unity Council comes as there are plans to deploy UN peacekeepers to replace Ethiopian troops in Somalia.
The remarks of Mogadishu elders comes following the United Nations has declared that UN peacekeepers must send to Somalia and enforce a ceasefire if lasting peace is to be restored in the shattered African nation, a former mediator said on Tuesday.
As Somali Islamist and government delegates continue with peace talks in neighbouring Djibouti, former Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediator Bethuel Kiplagat said an urgent ceasefire was need in Mogadishu.
"What is needed now is UN peacekeepers to deploy in full force urgently and enforce a ceasefire in Mogadishu. There can be no successful peace talks if there is no truce in that city," Kiplagat told AFP in Bonn, attending a conference on the media role in peacebuilding and conflict resolution.
Kiplagat urged the UN to keep pushing with the talks even though some Islamist militants have boycotted the negotiations until Ethiopian troops -- deployed late 2006 to bolster President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed -- withdraw.
"Those Islamists who are boycotting the talks are actually isolating themselves before the eyes of their own people. The more they ignore the talks, the more they isolate themselves," he added.
Kiplagat said the urgent deployment of the UN peacekeepers could pave the way for the pullout of Ethiopian troops, whose presence in Somalia has spurred resentment among Somalis, who accuse them of occupation.
"Ethiopian forces should not leave Mogadishu unless there is a strong UN force. We cannot afford a vacuum there," said the envoy, who chaired two years of IGAD peace talks in Kenya that resulted to election of Yusuf as president in October 2004.
IGAD is six-nation east African group that promotes peace and development.
"We need a peacekeeping force in Somalia to start relief operations lest people will continue suffering."
More than two million Somalians are in need of relief supplies and the UN warns that figure could climb to 3.5 million people in the face of rising food prices and record high inflation in Somalia.
The Djibouti talks are being held amid relentless clashes between the Ethiopia-backed Somali forces and Islamist fighters that have raged over the past year and killed at least 6,000 civilians, according to rights groups and aid agencies.
A UN Security Council mission visited the talks on Monday in a gesture aimed at boosting fresh talks on the first leg of their 10-day tour of Africa's trouble spots.
Somalia slid into factional fighting in 1991 after the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled. Numerous UN-backed efforts to restore stability in the nation of up to 10 million have since failed. Since then, many ceasefire agreements have failed.
A joint UN-US peacekeeping forces withdrew from Somalia between 1993 and 1995 after a humanitarian intervention failed, pitting the local militia against the peacekeepers.
Since then, Washington and the world body have been reluctant to commit peacekeepers.
Currently, the African Union has deployed some 2,500 peacekeepers in Mogadishu -- less than the pledged 8,000 troops -- and have failed to restore stability in the seaside capital.
Source: Shabelle Media Network