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Support sports to promote peace in Somalia, says UN

Somali youth to become messengers of peace after return from Real Madrid

NAIROBI, 6 August 2004 – In the run up to the return of four Somali youth from a two week summer football camp at Real Madrid F.C. of Spain, the UN Country Team appeals to the international community to support sports initiatives among the youth in Somalia as an effective tool to promote peace-building.

''The scholarships from Real Madrid have given the four Somali youth the chance of a lifetime to develop their skills and meet counterparts from countries at peace,'' said Dirk Boberg Assistant Resident Representative for UNDP Somalia, and added: ‘’Now is the time for the rest of the world and other international sports organizations to follow suit and support Somali youth through sports partnerships.’’

Mr Boberg speaking on behalf of the UN Somalia Country Team said the scholarships had given the boys an opportunity to prove themselves, make friends and show a positive side rarely seen of Somalia. In addition to the coaching in football skills, the Madrid Regional Government sponsored the youth to visit places of cultural interest. The trip also gave the youth who are from different areas within Somalia a unique opportunity to interact, a positive experience that should foster further youth exchange within the country.

UN agencies working in Somalia organized football tournaments where the four who exhibited exemplary football and leadership skills were selected from teams that competed for a Peace Cup. Some 384 members of 24 football teams in different parts of Somalia participated over a month-long period early this year.
For the UN, the scholarships are an important part of the Sports for Peace pillar of the Somalis for Peace campaign that calls on each Somali citizen to work for peace and to demand peace from those who are in a position to deliver it. The campaign comes at a crucial time in the ongoing Somalia National Reconciliation and Peace talks in Nairobi, Kenya and is being steered by the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB) comprised of the UN, donors and international and national NGOs to encourage a bottom-up approach to peace building.

Said Leila Pakkala, UNICEF Somalia Senior Programme Officer: ‘It is the UN’s intention to continue to strengthen opportunities in sports to harness youthful energy and build peace. Their experience and trip are an example that the world has a place in its heart to support positive developments in Somalia. The challenge now is for all Somali youth to work towards building peace to ensure more opportunities for their future. Somali leaders too should seize on this goodwill and be encouraged that with peace and excellence in Somalia, more can be achieved. “

The UN will support the young boys upon return to Somalia to continue to exercise their skills in sports and also to become sports ambassadors and messengers of peace for their country. The trip to Madrid was initiated through the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) and also supported by the Rotary Clubs of Las Vegas North West (USA) and Langata (Nairobi, Kenya), Kobo Safaris and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

The four youth who made the trip are: Abdi Bashir Abdi, 17, and Mohamed Yusuf Hassan, 15, from Hargeisa and Yusuf Ali Morgan, 17 from Merca, and Nuune Xuseen Cabdi, 17, from Mogadishu. 

For more information contact:

Sandra Macharia, UNDP Somalia.
Tel: +254 20 4448434-6 Email: sandra.macharia@undp.org
Website: www.so.undp.org

Robert Kihara, UNICEF Somalia.
Tel: +254-20-623958; Mob: +254-721-244800
Email: rkihara@unicef.org
Website: www.unicef.org/somalia




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