Amid increased political uncertainty, Somalia’s capital has been flooded by people escaping famine [Getty Images]
At least one person has been killed by a powerful explosion at the offices of the United Nations Mine Action Service in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, witnesses said.
The blast on Saturday destroyed a car in the service’s parking lot, killing at least one person in the vehicle, witness Abdulahi Ahmed told the AFP news agency.
« The explosion happened inside the compound [of the UN service]. I can see the remains of the car destroyed in the blast and the body of at least one person, » Ahmed said.
Another witness, Muktar Isa, said that « the explosion was very strong and it destroyed part of the compound’s wall ».
A UN representative in Mogadishu, who requested anonymity, confirmed that an explosion had destroyed a car in the Mine Action compound, without giving further details.
The UN Mine Action Service manages a demining programme and works to raise awareness of the dangers of landmines.
Its compound in Somalia is located near Mogadishu airport, one of the areas considered the safest in the war-torn country as it is the base of a 9,000-strong force of African Union peacekeepers.
The blast comes one day after two dozen countries debated the future of Somalia at the United Nations, weeks after a plan was launched to lift the country out of a political impasse.
The roadmap adopted on September 6 demands the end of the transitional government, which has proven incapable of restoring peace and authority to a country ravaged by 20 years of civil war.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed the roadmap as a « crucial step toward building a stable, prosperous future for the Somali people » as she urged Somali leaders to take up the task.
« If Somali leaders do not follow the roadmap that has been negotiated by Africans for Africans, then I don’t know that the international community will be here next year and the year after with support. It is now up to Somalis, » she said.
One of the most delicate topics concerns finding agreement on a new government structure in a Somalia riveted by significant tribal tensions and bitter political rivalry.
« The Horn of Africa is the most complex, volatile and climatically challenged region in Africa today, » a senior US official said ahead of the UN meeting.
« Somalia is at the center of these many challenges and faces a humanitarian crisis, a security crisis and a political set of challenges. »
Meeting participants « stressed the importance of conducting popular consultations on the draft constitution and the reform of parliament to enable adoption of a new constitution by a representative body without delay », a UN statement said.
« The meeting affirmed the importance of the development of government institutions and civilian capacity building across Somalia. »
Delegations also expressed concern about the « expanding reach and increased levels of violence » of Somali pirates, and discussed the role of the African Union Mission in Somalia.
Last week, Somalia made a request at the UN Security Council for AMISOM’s personnel limits be nearly doubled from 12,000 to 20,000 peacekeepers.
The UN was expected to devote an entire meeting to the humanitarian crisis triggered by a drought in the region.
Some four million Somalis have been hit by famine and 750,000 could die, according to the United Nations. And the international community has increasingly denounced al-Shabab for preventing aid from reaching the needy, forcing a massive exodus to Kenya and Ethiopia.
Shabab’s efforts to block access to vulnerable areas of Somalia « has exacerbated this crisis », said Clinton.