NAIROBI, Kenya (CP) — Since Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah became the U.N. envoy for Somalia three years ago, fighting in the capital has killed thousands of civilians, and extremists have carried out public stonings and amputations as they solidify their hold.
Critics say the envoy has failed and must resign, but Ould-Abdallah maintains peace and stability can return to the lawless Horn of Africa nation and that he has a "magic wand" that can solve the problems.
"Somalia's human tragedy must and should be solved," he said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "I don't believe it is unsolvable."
Earlier this month, though, more than 300 members of parliament issued a statement accusing him of being "the central perpetrator responsible for the serious and unfortunate legal and political crisis" within Somalia's government.
Not only is the al-Qaida-linked group al-Shabab turning increasingly violent and expanding its reach across the country, Somali pirates also continue to attack international shipping vessels.
"Everything has deteriorated since he took office," said Abdikadir Haji Mohamud Dhakane, who was a state minister for the office of the prime minister between 2005 and late 2006, when he quit the government and joined an opposition group when Ethiopia invaded Somalia.
Ould-Abdallah's mandate from the U.N. is to "advance the cause of peace and reconciliation through contacts with Somali leaders, civic organizations and the states and organizations concerned."
Other critics say Ould-Abdallah is not seeking consensus or inclusiveness, and instead sides with a weak administration that has little traction among the public.
"He cannot be an honest broker," said Ahmed Hashi, the former Somali ambassador to the U.N. from 2001 to 2005. Hashi is a member of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia, whose aim was to end Ethiopia's two-year occupation.
"If you are an honest broker you will talk to all parties to the conflict. But Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah does not want to speak to opposition groups," Hashi said.
The U.N., Western-backed government is holed up in a few blocks of the Somali capital Mogadishu, while the rest of southern and central parts of the country are ruled by Islamist groups trying to topple it. No ministry is fully functional and the parliament is in a state of deadlock over the length of term of the speaker.
Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other, plunging the country into chaos and anarchy.
Critics say that Ould-Abdallah divided opposition groups in 2008, and that he micromanages peace initiatives and tries to advance foreign agendas. Ould-Abdallah rebuffs the allegations.
"Somali politicians, the elite I mean, are not ready to face the truth and compromise for the sake of their country, religion, children and dignity," he said. "These people are at war. Their children are dying. They are living on charities under makeshift shelters, so I can't accept to have cocktail parties."
Like in other conflicts in Africa, Ould-Abdallah said war profiteers — both foreign and Somali — are taking advantage of the country's chaos for profit.
In 2007, Somalia was suffering near-daily violence between Ethiopian forces and insurgents who wanted to drive them out. Car bombs and suicide bombers became common. Indiscriminate shelling forced out half the city's populations.
Somalis fought among themselves for nearly 15 years, but when Ethiopia invaded the country, Islamists and nationalists closed ranks to drive Ethiopian troops out.
Ould-Abdallah said opposition figures asked for his help in ending the Ethiopian occupation, promising that Somalis would no longer fight among themselves if the Ethiopians left.
"They said: 'There will be peace the next day and no more fighting,'" he said. "But the war did not stop."