UN Envoy voices optimism for Somalia despite the Al-Shabab threatListen /
The United Nations Special Representative for Somalia Nicholas Kay is calling for more financial and military support for the African Union mission in its quest to end years of insecurity in Somalia.
Speaking in Geneva Mr Kay said security remains the biggest challenge facing Somalia adding that controlling and defeating the Al-shabab militant group was key to restoring peace and security in the country.
He said the threat posed by the militant group spreads beyond the Somali borders as evidenced by the attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.
Mr Kay said international support was needed for Somalia to build on the positive changes that have been achieved over the past 18 months.
"Despite this tragedy and despite this murderous deadly intent shown by A-Shabab, in Somalia we have at the moment the best opportunity we have had for a generation to assist the country return to peace and eventual prosperity. There are plenty of challenges still outstanding, but there are very many grounds for a cautious optimism. There is now a credible legitimate internationally recognised government in Somalia. There is a very unified international and regional support for Somalia and there is an increasing government control of cities and regions in the country. But the challenges remain. Human rights are certainly amongst some of the significant challenges that face us. But none of the progress were are making in Somalia in terms of political and institutional capacity building will succeed unless the security challenges are met."
The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has 17,000 troops, but according to Mr Kay additional troops were needed including key military hardware such as helicopters and armoured personnel carriers.
Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.