In Security Council, Top Official Describes New Assistance Mission for Somalia; Says Represents Renewed Commitment to Support 'Somali-Owned Peacebuilding'

25 April 2013
Security CouncilSC/10990
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6955th Meeting (PM)

In Security Council, Top Official Describes New Assistance Mission for Somalia;

Says Represents Renewed Commitment to Support ‘Somali-Owned Peacebuilding’


Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Briefs;

Representative of Somalia, Foreign Minister for Ethiopia Also Speak

It was now very clear how the United Nations should support the Somali Government through 2016, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs told the Security Council in a briefing this afternoon, citing the Secretary-General’s vision for a new United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia, grounded in real needs and a well-thought out analysis of the objective reality in that country.

“The new Mission represents a fresh start for the United Nations in Somalia and a renewed commitment by the Council to support Somali-owned peacebuilding,” Jeffrey Feltman said, briefing the Council ahead of interventions by Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister and Somalia’s Ambassador.

The core role of the mission, to be known as UNAMSOM, would be to act as an enabler, helping to create the political and strategic environment in which stabilization and peacebuilding could proceed, he explained, adding that it needed to be agile, flexible and mobile to adapt to evolving priorities in a nation that had been torn by conflict throughout much of the past 50 years.  

He said that the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) was reaching its operational limit in terms of holding and expanding areas under its control.  Innovative thinking was needed to address that challenge, as were additional resources — including enablers and force multipliers — if the impressive momentum of the past year was to be maintained.  The anticipated withdrawal of Ethiopian National Defence Forces would add further strain.

A better funded and coordinated strategic approach was required, he said, which recognized that well trained and equipped Somali forces were the ultimate exit strategy for international military operations in Somalia.  Building Somali capacity and supporting Somali leadership would be central to the new Mission’s efforts to strengthen the peace process, in hopes that it would be Somali solutions that would bring an end to the conflict and spur development.

Outlining the Mission’s priorities, he said it would support reconciliation and assist in the mediation of politically sensitive challenges associated with the constitutional review and the question of federalism.  It was also designed to help build national capacity to protect and promote human rights, and it would seek to enhance the Government’s lead in coordinating international assistance through the “New Deal” Framework, as well as work with the country team on such urgent issues as the stabilization of newly recovered areas, maritime and economic triggers of violence, and capacity building.

Constraints on space and resources would limit the number of permanent residential staff, but the operation would need resources to bring in specialized experts to support emerging priorities, he said.  It also required a concept of support — and a range of security options — to enable the United Nations to work alongside Somalis, including in Villa Somalia.  That model might be expensive, but if the Organization was going to be relevant, it would require the Council’s strong support.

For its part, the United Nations would require strong international commitment if the new mission was to succeed, he said.  That meant a clear commitment to working “coherently and patiently” to allow the Federal Government to develop its plans and build its capacities.  At the same time, he cautioned that the spectre of fragmented and duplicative efforts at international assistance risked overwhelming Somalia’s nascent national capacity. 

The Federal Government of Somalia had continued implementing its six pillar policy for stabilization and peacebuilding, he said, notably by reaching out beyond Mogadishu to realize its vision for a federal State of Somalia.  The agreement between President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and the Somaliland administration to continue dialogue and increase cooperation, signed earlier this month, was a welcome step forward, as was Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon’s “listening tour”, aimed at building trust and consensus.

But the Government’s approach to building new regional administrations was not accepted by all, he noted.  An interim draft charter to establish a Jubaland state in southern Somalia had been ratified by delegates from three regions on 2 April and was expected to result in the election of a President for that state in the coming days.  While the draft charter envisaged a Jubaland state as part of the federal system, the Federal Government regarded it as unconstitutional, and efforts to find a compromise had reached an impasse.

“A lot more work is needed to tackle the inevitable challenges that will arise in the development of a federal system in Somalia,” he said.  There had been several alarming reminders of the fragile security situation, including Al-Shabaab’s 17 March retaking of Hundur just hours after the Ethiopian National Defence Forces had withdrawn, as well as its multiple suicide bombings that had claimed the lives of civilians in Mogadishu.

“Results will not be achieved overnight,” he declared.  The Council must be prepared to let Somalis set the timelines, as well as the priorities, and to keep its expectations realistic.  But with the Council’s support, “we can help continue to move this daunting agenda forward”, he said.

Somalia’s Ambassador, Elmi Ahmed Duale, said the briefing had made clear what “medicine” was needed to enable Somalia to emerge from its “predicament”.  He thanked AMISOM and the Governments and countries that had helped to “save” his country.  Now, it was time to ensure that the national security forces, in due course, were able to assume their responsibility, in all areas of the country. 

He said his country had “passed through many stages” and it was not “at a place where we can see the light at the end of the tunnel”, but he hoped the plans outlined today were realized through the Council’s full support — “the sooner the better”.  The proposals were in line with those of Somalia’s President, he added.

Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the findings of the Technical Assessment Mission on the overall political and security environment, and the humanitarian situation in Somalia, were comprehensive and valid:  that the political environment was “extremely complex but that there are also impressive capacities for peace and dialogue”.  He agreed that the strong political will of the Somali leadership to rebuild the war-torn society augured well for peace- and State-building.  He also agreed that government legitimacy and credibility — a critical achievement — had eluded Somalia for more than 20 years.  Only when it was able to provide basic services could that be enhanced. 

He said it was also true that “ Somalia is a country in which the international community is seeking to make and build peace in the context of ongoing war and active counter-insurgency”.  Although the struggle against Al-Shabaab had turned a corner, he also agreed that it was “far from over”.  It must be ensured that the momentum gained was not only maintained, but accelerated.  That was particularly true in the area of security.  However, AMISOM, whose support was critical for the security of the new Assistance Mission, would be unable to provide such services in many instances within the existing troop ceiling.

The Secretary-General, in his report, had reminded the Council of his earlier recommendation with respect to the option of deploying a United Nations or joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping operation, noted the Foreign Minister.  However, he had introduced a caveat by saying that that should be taken up as “conventional combat operations against Al-Shabaab”.  The Minister felt there was no reason why the proposal should not be considered immediately, with a view to accelerating implementation of one of the two options.

Most crucial, he said, was ensuring that everything was done to support the Somali National Security Forces.  That was doable, if support was provided by Member States on the basis of an “integrated approach” and not in a fragmented manner.  It must ensure that the security forces were “up and running”, including in the context of providing security for the new United Nations mission, and avoid resorting to the use of international private security companies.  “This is also what we ourselves have been trying to contribute in practice,” he added.

Wishing to clarify a reference to the “announced withdrawal” of Ethiopian National Defence Forces from Hudur and “their anticipated withdrawal from Baidoa”, he said that the question of a lack of consultation or absence of prior notification by Ethiopia “has absolutely no ground”.  Those who needed to know were informed many months prior to the withdrawal.  What happened did not in any way signify a shirking of responsibility on Ethiopia’s part, although the question of burden sharing had always been a source of concern. 

More important, he said, was whether Ethiopian forces were deployed in a way that added value in terms of addressing the major threat to the encouraging momentum that had been created in Somalia.  Ethiopia’s conclusion was that they were not, but that was in no way related to any diminished commitment on Ethiopia’s part to continue being a “factor for peace and stability” in Somalia. 

The meeting was called to order at 3:05 p.m. and adjourned at 3:35 p.m.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.