MOGADISHU: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Somalia`s seaside capital on Friday, the first visit in years by the UN`s top leader to a city known for a seemingly perpetual state of war.
Ban`s arrival in the war-torn capital city was made possible because of the military gains that African Union forces have made this year against al-Shabab militants, who last year at this time controlled most of Mogadishu. Still, the militants have been waging a campaign of roadside and suicide bomb attacks, injecting some risk into the UN chief`s visit.
Ban met with Somali leaders and officials from the African Union force, and he was expected to make an announcement about the UN`s involvement in Mogadishu. A police official confirmed that Ban had arrived but said he could not be quoted by name.
The trip was surrounded by secrecy. No public announcement had been made of Ban`s visit, though rumors began circulating around Mogadishu on Thursday, when Ban was visiting neighboring Kenya. The visit is the first in years to Mogadishu by the UN`s top official.
Mogadishu fell into chaos in 1991 after its last president was ousted. Warlords then turned on each other, plunging the country into a near perpetual state of anarchy the last two decades. After the failed 1993 US military intervention that ended with the battle known as "Black Hawk Down," the international community largely pulled out of Mogadishu.
The city hosts no international embassies and very few Western aid workers. The UN`s mission for Somalia has been based in neighboring Kenya for years.
Ban`s visit signals that the UN believes progress is being made, at the least by the African Union military force and perhaps even the UN-backed government in Mogadishu known as the Transitional Federal Government. The TFG has a president, a prime minister, Cabinet and hundreds of parliamentarians, though the government has few accomplishments it can point to and controls only the capital.