UN news agency, New York | Feb 20, 2009
A senior United Nations official has welcomed the announcement of the new Somali cabinet, and the fact that the new Government will return to Mogadishu this weekend to begin the vital work of restoring peace, stability and development to the strife-torn nation.
The Secretary-General's Special Representative, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, said the cabinet announced by Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke is "a healthy combination of experience and youth."
He welcomed the fact that the Prime Minister chose a Government of National Unity as outlined in the 2008 UN-facilitated Djibouti Agreement by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS), in which they agreed to end their conflict.
"It is encouraging to see members of the original Transitional Federal Government alongside some fresh faces from what was the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia," Mr. Ould-Abdallah said in a news release.
There have been several encouraging developments over the past month for Somalia, which has not had a functioning central government since 1991. These include the election of the country's new President, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, in what the UN has hailed as "a fair and open manner" and the creation of an enlarged Parliament.
The new Government is expected to return this weekend to Mogadishu, where security on the ground has "improved," according to Mr. Ould-Abdallah.
At the same time, he noted that despite some progress, "Somalia remains an extremely dangerous place for many Somalis, particularly humanitarian workers and journalists.
"I call on elders and religious leaders in the communities to use their influence to stop the violence. Everyone needs to work together to create a stable environment - one where children have an education and the young people employment.
"Security and development are closely linked and we need the help of both Somalis and the international community to ensure there is major progress in this area," said the envoy.
In addition, Mr. Ould-Abdallah welcomed the news that the two Italian nuns abducted in November 2008 have been released, and repeated his call for all remaining hostages in the country to be released immediately.