UN mission to study African wars


Feb 11, 2006
The UN Security Council is on a mission to Africa to look at the continent's wars and see how they might be ended.

The mission is due to have its first discussions with Somalia's government and its opponents, then go to Sudan and several other countries at war.

It has decided it is too dangerous to hold its Somali talks on Somali soil - they will be held in Djibouti instead.

The Security Council is also hoping to broker the first official direct talks between the Somalis.

BBC World Affairs correspondent Mark Doyle, who is travelling with the mission, says there is less optimism about the situation in Sudan.

The mass displacement of civilians in the country's troubled western province of Darfur is still unresolved, and the peace agreement between the north and south of the country is in the midst of new tensions.

The mission will also visit the Democratic Republic of Congo, where millions of people have been displaced by fighting in the east of the country.

Desperate need
The Security Council is due to hold separate meetings in Djibouti with the Somali government and the opposition, and has held out the possible prospect of the first official, face to face, talks between the two.

But in a sign of Somalia's instability, the plane taking President Abdullahi Yusuf to Djibouti was delayed by a mortar attack on the airport.

The plane was not hit but there are unconfirmed reports of two minor injuries in the attack blamed on Islamist insurgents.

Our correspondent says Somalia is the ultimate failed state - the capital Mogadishu is destroyed by war and an estimated half of the city's population has fled.

The UN says almost two million Somalis are in desperate need of outside assistance.

An Islamist insurgency there has been mounting almost daily attacks on the weak government which is backed by the United States because Washington believes the Islamists are associated with al-Qaeda.

Some experts on this part of Africa say the strong US backing of one side, rather than emphasising the importance of talks between the factions, has exacerbated the situation.

Nevertheless, UN diplomats believe that the recent appointment of a new prime minister in Somalia, Nur Adde, who has said he will negotiate with anybody, provides a rare window of opportunity for a peace initiative.

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