The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, on Tuesday urged the international community to redouble its efforts to help defeat militant groups in the country, including Al-Shabaab, which has claimed responsibility for the four-day bloody terrorist attack in neighbouring Kenya.
At a press briefing in Geneva, monitored by PANA via video conference at the UN headquarters in New York, Mr. Kay strongly condemned the attack in Nairobi and expressed condolences to the families of the victims.
According to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, 61 people have been confirmed dead, 65 others are missing while 11 suspects are in custody following the attach on Kenya’s shopping mall, the Westgate.
Islamist Al-Shabaab insurgents said it launched the attack on Saturday in response to Kenya sending troops to Somalia to fight the group.
The UN envoy stressed that security remained the main challenge in Somalia and called on the international community to support Somali national forces in addressing threats posed by militant groups, which represent not just a national but an international threat.
Mr. Kay said: ‘None of the progress that we are making in Somalia, in terms of political and institution capacity building, none of that progress will succeed unless the security challenges are met.
‘Security remains the number one challenge and controlling and defeating Al-Shabaab is key to this, and the Westgate attack in Nairobi shows that the threat from Al-Shabaab is international and the ideology and the terrorist intent respects no borders.’
Mr. Kay, who heads the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), called for an intensified campaign to defeat the group, and said it had to be three-dimensional: military, political and practical.
He added that he would request more resources, in particular for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which is in need of helicopters, armed vehicles, and more troops.
The envoy also emphasised that an extra investment in Somalia should be seen as very small in comparison to what had been spent in other countries, such as Afghanistan, Iraq or Mali.
‘The price of walking away would be far higher,’ he said, adding ‘There are plenty of challenges still outstanding but there are many grounds for a cautious optimism.’
He said ‘despite this tragedy, and despite this murderous deadly intent shown by Al-Shabaab, in Somalia we have at the moment the best opportunity we have had for a generation to assist that country return to peace and eventual prosperity’.
Somalia has been torn asunder by factional fighting since 1991 but has recently made progress towards stability.
In 2011, Al-Shabaab insurgents retreated from Mogadishu and last year new government institutions emerged, as the country ended a transitional phase toward setting up a permanent, democratically-elected government.