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"Atrocities" Against Somaliland Condemned in Istanbul II Deal, Where's UN?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 19 -- Diplomacy between Somaliland and Somalia continues, resulting now in an "Istanbul Communique" on "Dialogue Process Design." Inner City Press has put it online, here.

 It was signed on January 18 by Abdikarin Hussein Guled for the Federal Government of Somalia and by former UN official Mohamed Behi Yonis, as foreign minister of Somaliland.

  It concludes, "We share the pain inflicted upon the Somali people by the military regime in Somalia before the year 1991. We condemn all the atrocities committed by that regime throughout all Somali people particularly the people in Somaliland."

   Free UN Coalition for Access member Mohamoud Walaaleye from Hargeisa -- where readers may remember he previously protested the imprisonment of other journalists from Hubaal newspaper -- tells Inner City Press this acknowledgment is a first, and bodes well. (Click here for Inner City Press' coverage of the previous round in Turkey in July 2013.)

  But still: where is the UN in all this?

  We continue to ask, as we did in October 2013: what is the UN's role in and position on the proposed transfer of the airspace over Somaliland to the government in Mogadishu? Inner City Press has put this question to UN envoy Nicholas Kay, who points to another meeting in Turkey on November 8.

  On October 30, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson about the airspace, and also about press freedom (and safety) in Mogadishu. Video here, from Minute 10:37, UN transcript below.

  Eliasson acknowledged, "Somalialand as you know has aspiration for independence. I know there are contacts, Turkey plays an important role. The situation, economic, is good. We [the UN] are on side of efforts of president to create one Somalia, we hope he is successful."

  On the specifics of the airpace, Eliasson said "I have need to come back to you, I have not informed myself on that." It is understandable -- Eliasson has also been made the point-man on among other "files" that of Sri Lanka and now apparently Haiti. We'll await his response.

  On press freedom, Inner City Press asked about the shut down of Radio Shabelle, forcing media to register, and the death of TV Universal journalist Mohamed Mohamud Tima'adde.

  Eliasson replied, "your profession is uncertain, a dangerous job." On the eviction of Radio Shabelle he said, "we are looking into the situation, we haven't all the facts yet, we will follow this case. "Again, we'll wait to hear more. Watch this site.

From the UN's transcript of DSG:

Inner City Press: You mentioned Somaliland, Puntland and Jubaland. There seems to be with Somaliland, there’s an issue where the airspace was managed by them for years, but now the UN has somehow gotten involved and is trying to transfer the airspaces above Somaliland to the TFG [Transitional Federal Government]. Some have said that aid flights will be cancelled. Somaliland has protested it. So I wonder, you sort of presented it as bringing the country back together, but there’s a desire for self-determination in Somaliland, and I wonder what you make of it and also on press freedom in Somalia. While you were there, Radio Shabelle closed down and people were evicted. Media have to now register. A journalist died in the hospital after being attacked. What is your sense of where the Government’s own position on press freedom is in Somalia?

DSG Eliasson: Well, Somaliland has, as you know, aspirations for independence and this is, of course, disputed by the Government in Mogadishu. I know there are contacts between Mogadishu and Hargeisa. Turkey plays an important role in providing a venue for discussion of that relationship. The situation in terms of economic and social progress is very good, is improvingly good. And the United Nations has agencies on the ground working with the authorities in Hargeisa. We are not, of course, in any way part of the discussion about the status between Somalia and Somaliland. We are on the side of the efforts of the President to create one Somalia and we hope very much that he will be successful in this regard. But the issue of the airspace, I need to come back to, I have not informed myself about that. On press freedom: yes, it was an incident. By the way, there was also a journalist killed over the weekend I was there. I think he was the sixth journalist this year. And last year, 18 journalists were killed. So, your profession is a pretty uncertain profession with horrible dimensions, as I understand - very dangerous job in Somalia. And what happened, evidently, was an eviction of the facilities of Shabelle – I heard about that. And we are looking into the situation. And while we haven’t all the facts yet, but I can only underline that we very strongly have made the case of freedom of the press with the authorities in Mogadishu and that we will follow this case also in the future.

Note: not as intentionally chopped up with "uh's" as UN does noon briefing -- same speaking style. We'll have more on this, as well as of course Somalia, Somaliland, Sri Lanka... and Haiti. Watch this site.


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