, UNITED NATIONS, July 2 – UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged Somalis to seek unity in their divided country, which marked its 50th independence anniversary nearly two decades into a brutal civil war.
Somalia gained independence from Italy in 1960 and merged with Somaliland, a British protectorate that proclaimed independence five days earlier on June 26.
"The secretary-general commends the courage of the people of Somalia and reaffirms that the United Nations will continue to support them to overcome the serious challenges they face and to achieve their dream of living in peace, stability and prosperity," Ban\’s press office said in a statement.
He "invites all Somalis to reflect back on that founding moment in their history when the people of Somalia looked to the future of their nation with pride and great expectation," it added.
"It is that vision of a united, strong and prosperous Somali nation that should direct the present and future."
The Western-backed government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who only controls a few neighborhoods and strategic locations in the capital Mogadishu, celebrated the 50th anniversary of his country, marred in civil war since 1991.
A leading Somali insurgent Islamist group, Hezb Al-Islam, ordered citizens on the eve of the anniversary to boycott celebrations and warned of reprisals if they attended.
Meanwhile, the electoral panel of Somalia\’s breakaway republic of Somaliland said opposition leader Ahmed Mohamud Silaanyo had been elected president of the region in weekend polls held in defiance of Islamist threats.
Somaliland has been spared much of the violence that has ravaged rump Somalia, where an Islamist insurgency is battling to overthrow Ahmed\’s government.