The top United Nations official in Somalia has condemned the brutal killing of eight local elders in the Bay region of Somalia, as well as the violence that erupted in the city of Baidoa between supporters of different state formation initiatives, and called on all parties to show restraint in order to de-escalate the tensions.
"I condemn these cruel murders and express my heartfelt condolences to the families and communities of the elders" said Nicholas Kay, head of the UN assistance mission in the country (UNSOM) in a press release on the incidents that occurred over the weekend.
Calling for a full investigation and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice swiftly, he said: "I remind all parties to exercise the utmost restraint and avoid provocative actions that could pose a security threat and lead to further instability."
According to the Federal Government of Somalia, the community elders were participating in a state formation conference in Baidoa after which they were ambushed and killed by Al Shabaab insurgents.
After decades of factional fighting, new Somali Government institutions emerged last year, as the country ended a UN-supported transitional phase towards adopting a permanent, democratically-elected Government.
Meanwhile, in a separate address to the 425th African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa, Mr. Kay called for an urgent response by the State authorities to lead Somalia's the peace-building process.
"It is imperative that all stakeholders meet without delay to address the issues in Baidoa and support a peaceful state formation process under the leadership of the Federal Government."
The UN envoy welcomed the Government's proposal to bring together political and traditional leaders from all parties for immediate consultations.
"UNSOM is committed to supporting the Government's efforts and will work closely with its international partners, particularly the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and European Union (EU), to move forward the reconciliation and state formation process" stressed Mr. Kay.
In his address to the AU Peace and Security Council, Mr. Kay noted that Somalia is now "at a turning point of a long road" and emphasized that "only together can we help the Federal Government deliver to the Somalis what they most need: improved security, rule of law, education, health, jobs, economic development."
"Together, I am sure, by 2016, we will achieve much of which we now dream," he concluded.