UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Security in Mogadishu has worsened since peace talks started a week ago and, for the first time since early June, more people have left the Somali capital than returned, the United Nations said on Monday.
Reconciling clan rivalries is a key aim of the National Reconciliation Conference which the interim government hopes will bolster its legitimacy and win it the support it needs to bring peace among Somalia’s myriad factions.
The reconciliation meeting opened in Mogadishu on July 15 but was marred by mortar bombs attacks.
A U.N. statement said more than 10,000 people fled Mogadishu last week. Since government troops began securing the city at the start of June, some 21,000 people have left Mogadishu and around 20,000 have returned, it said.
“The continuing violence is again driving civilians from their homes and making life extremely difficult for those who remain,” John Holmes, the U.N. emergency relief coordinator, said in the statement.
U.N. agencies estimated the number of Somalis internally displaced in 2007 at 400,000.
“Restrictions on daily activities for most people in Mogadishu have jeopardized the livelihoods of the most vulnerable people within the city,” the statement said, adding that the closure of the Bakara market was causing hardship.
Somali government forces and allied Ethiopian troops have been a target of regular attacks in the Bakara market, which is home to one of the world’s biggest open-air weapons markets and is suspected of being a hideout for insurgents.
“Security in Mogadishu deteriorated with the start of the National Reconciliation Conference,” the statement said.
The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution on Monday extending the mandate of a monitoring group that oversees compliance with an international arms embargo on Somalia.
At the end of 2006, Somali forces backed by Ethiopia’s military routed Islamist troops in a two-week war in the country which has been in chaos since 1991 when it became a patchwork of feuding warlords after a dictator was ousted.
But persistent attacks blamed on ousted Islamist hard-liners have kept up the pressure on the interim government, which has urged the United Nations to send peacekeepers to reinforce an African Union force.