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U.N. official is 'hopeful' for Somalia

By David McKenzie, CNN
  • U.N. official makes a whirlwind tour of the Horn
  • He sees glimmers of hope on Mogadishu streets
  • The U.N. is looking to increase its presence there
  • Somalia
  • United Nations
  • Ethiopia

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) -- A U.N. official who toured the Horn of Africa to assess its political climate thinks there's hope for war-torn and chaotic Somalia.

Lynn Pascoe, the U.N. under-secretary-general for political affairs, made stops in Djibouti, Eritrea, the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, the Somali capital of Mogadishu, and Kenya's capital of Narobi, where he spoke to reporters on Thursday.

Despite a dramatic upsurge in violence in Mogadishu, Pascoe told reporters he is "hopeful" for Somalia, where African Union forces and Transitional Federal Government troops have squared off with Al-Shabaab, the Islamist militant group. In recent days, scores of people have been killed in heavy fighting.

"I don't think it is pollyannish at all to say that there is in place and getting in place a structure that is a lot more intense and aggressive to meet what has been an Al-Shabaab drive, there is no question about that," Pascoe said.

"It is clear that Al-Shabaab has been pressing very hard in Mogadishu, but as I looked on the streets there were many more people on the streets and rehabilitation is going on."

He said that the United Nations will continue to support the African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM, rather than bringing in its own peacekeepers.

The "African Union and the U.N. have been working at it to try to give the Somali people the chance at a stable government, a stable situation which they then can prosper in," he noted.

"It is true that Shabaab has gained strength, but it is also true that the elements are there for a much stronger approach by the government and the international community to help give Somalis a decent government," Pascoe said.

The United Nations has being looking to increase its presence in Mogadishu, but Pascoe would not discuss when or how many staff would be based there.

"The U.N. has been here all along," Pascoe said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday "It's a question of whether we have sort of a few more people on the ground -- which we may."

Earlier this week, the U.N. Security Council condemned an attack against the presidential palace in the Somali capital that killed four Ugandan peacekeepers serving with the African Union.

The council "condemned the recent increased fighting in Somalia, reiterated their full support for the Transitional Federal Government, its efforts to achieve peace, security and reconciliation through the Djibouti Peace Process, and for the work of AMISOM."

It also thanked Uganda and Burundi for providing AMISOM troops.