March 4, 2010 / 12:05 PM / 10 years ago

UN, agencies should return to Somalia-UN envoy

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The United Nations and other international agencies working on Somalia should move to the Horn of Africa nation from neighbouring Kenya to be more effective, the U.N. special envoy to Somalia said.

Most embassies, foreign charitable organisations and the U.N. itself are based in Nairobi due to security concerns in most of Somalia and near-daily gunfights and mortar attacks in the capital.

President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed’s government has struggled to establish its influence, which has been whittled down by a three-year insurgency bent on toppling his Western-backed administration that only controls parts of the capital.

“For many years international community members have been based in Nairobi, which means we are not close to the victims. We need to be close to the victims,” the United Nation’s Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah said in an interview this week.

“We should move to Somalia to respect the country, its people and to be close to the victims.”

U.N. headquarters in New York will not allow Ould-Abdallah to relocate his office because of safety fears.

Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have fled the violence to live in Kenya, where they settle in squalid refugee camps or in some suburbs of the capital. Some use the country as a launch pad to Europe, north America and the Middle East.

Nearly half of Somalia’s 439 members of parliament are in exile, many living in Nairobi.

MONEY NOT SPENT IN SOMALIA

The government has received help from more than 5,000 African Union peacekeeping troops that have prevented insurgents, including the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group, from overrunning the capital and driving out the government.

However, concerns over corruption and a lack of reliable mechanisms for distributing financial support mean some pledges by Western governments have not always been fulfilled.

Ould-Abdallah said the move by aid organisations to Nairobi had used up money meant for Somalia.

“Legitimate resources mobilised for Somalia are not spent in Somalia and this has to change,” he said from his base in the Kenyan capital.

Ould-Abdallah praised Turkey for working to restore Somalia’s tarnished image and investing in the anarchic nation.

“Turkey has a fresh attitude towards Somalia, giving a chance to this country and helping reconstruction and development, more importantly, restoring the image of Somalia.”

“What they are trying to do, we will see in the next two months,” he said, declining to give details. “The world always sees the bad side of Somalia, but Turkey see the good sides.”

The Mauritanian diplomat said some countries, especially those in the region, were interfering in Somali affairs for their own economic and social gains.

“I think Somalis should be aware of that, unite their ranks and settle their disputes peacefully,” he said.

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