Secretary-General’s Special Representative Hails Somalia’s Recent Progress while Cautioning against Illusions about Future Challenges
Mogadishu’s Permanent Representative Urges Steps to Cut off Means of Al-Shabaab’s Survival, Identify Its Supporters
The past three years have seen some remarkable achievements in Somalia – including the peaceful transition of presidential power, improved finances, and the formation of a Government with a compelling reform agenda — the top United Nations official in the Horn of Africa country told the Security Council today, while cautioning that no one should be deluded about the challenges ahead.
“The structural problems that shape Somali politics and security have not fundamentally changed,” emphasized Michael Keating, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), in his last briefing to the Council.
He said key challenges include the threat of Al-Shabaab and other extremists out to spoil progress; political differences that can block progress, the passage of key legislation and implementation of the Government’s reform and security agenda; fragmented international support, including disunity within the Security Council; and the prospect of a humanitarian catastrophe. Unfortunately, the chances of the latter possibility are high, he said.
While pointing out that Somalia’s future is in the hands of Somalis, he stressed that political will alone is not enough. They will need essential practical capacities and success in fostering truly inclusive politics, far from easy in a political economy scarred by 30 years of violent conflict. Emphasizing that the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) deserves predictable funding and a clear drawdown horizon, he warned that its premature departure could be disastrous.
Also briefing the Council, Francisco Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union, said Somalia is on the way to taking ownership of its future. AMISOM has handed over the security responsibility to Somali forces, and the Mission will continue to support Government efforts to implement the transition plan, he said, underlining the critical nature of the next six months. The rationale for the security transition is to build the institutional capacity of the security and justice sectors, he explained.
A third briefer was Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women). “Peace will not be achieved by military means alone,” she declared. “I know Somalia will not have long‑lasting peace and deep reconciliation without women’s far-reaching contribution and recognition.” Somalia has a once-in-a-generation opportunity for both peace and gender equality, she emphasized. Women’s representation in Somalia jumped from 14 per cent to 25 per cent in the last parliamentary elections, she said, pointing out that the participation of women would be boosted further were the matter not left in the hands of clan elders.
Ethiopia’s delegate said reconciliation and the start of normalization processes involving his own country, as well as neighbouring Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan and Somalia, have already provided the possibility of extended economic integration and a wider political response. “The wind of change blowing across the Horn of Africa has rekindled a new sense of hope and optimism for regional peace and stability,” he added. Underlining the urgent need for the Secretary‑General to resolve the current tensions between Somalia’s Federal Government and its federal states, he emphasized that the country still needs sustained international support to ensure post-conflict recovery.
France’s representative, while commending the transition of security responsibility to Somali forces, stressed that it must be completed within the agreed timeline. Successful implementation of the transition plan depends on establishing a strong national security architecture, and on ensuring that AMISOM’s mandate is reconfigured to maintain the trajectory towards eventual withdrawal, she added, while underlining that the European Union cannot continue to finance the Mission on its own and that new partners must commit themselves to providing support.
Somalia’s representative urged the Security Council to take urgent steps to cut off the means of Al-Shabaab’s survival and propose clear and adequate resources to enable the relevant sanctions committee to identify its supporters. He said Government initiatives are now tackling terrorist threats through a range of measures amid continuing efforts to advance the security transition process.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Bolivia, Côte d’Ivoire, Peru, Sweden, China, Netherlands, Kazakhstan, Equatorial Guinea, Poland, Kuwait, Russian Federation and the United States.
The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and ended at 12:33 p.m.
MICHAEL KEATING, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), recalled that, upon assuming office, he was taken straight to the President’s office to discuss a threat by federal member states to suspend cooperation with the Federal Government. The country faced a similar situation when he left Mogadishu two days ago, he said, explaining: “The structural problems that shape Somali politics and security have not fundamentally changed.” However, that should not obscure some remarkable achievements in the last three years. There was a peaceful transition of presidential power, with a result accepted as legitimate, and a new Upper House representing the federal states came into being. The percentage of women parliamentarians rose from 14 per cent to 24 per cent, higher than both the African and global average. Famine was averted in 2017 and there have been successes in conflict prevention and resolution. A conflict between “Puntland” and Somaliland has been prevented through intense diplomatic activity by the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and others, he said, adding that a national framework for addressing chronic insecurity is in place.
He went on to state that the plan for the transition of lead security responsibility from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to the Somali security forces is being implemented. Somali forces just took over Mogadishu’s iconic stadium and adjacent areas, and there is a Government with a compelling reform agenda, anchored in the strong partnership between the President and the Prime Minister. However, no one should delude themselves about the challenges ahead, many of them structural, he cautioned, citing the risk that Al-Shabaab and other extremists could derail the progress made. Despite the efforts of AMISOM and the Somali forces, Al-Shabaab remains resilient, he noted. Additionally, political differences could bring progress, the passage of key legislation, and the implementation of the Government’s reform and security agenda to a grinding halt.
Another risk is fragmentation in the international community, such as the divide within the Security Council, he continued, noting that the prevailing bilateral approaches complicate the chances of success. Emphasizing that AMISOM deserves predictable funding and a clear drawdown horizon, he warned that the Mission’s premature departure could be disastrous. A further test of international unity relates to Somalia’s vulnerability to rivalries among partners, including in the Gulf. Yet another risk is that the population will once again face the prospect of humanitarian catastrophe, he said, adding that, unfortunately, the chances of that happening is high. Somalia’s future is in the hands of the Somalis, he pointed out, while stressing that political will alone is not enough. Practical capacities are essential, as is success in fostering truly inclusive politics, far from easy in a political economy scarred by 30 years of violent conflict, he said, underlining the role of spoilers who benefit from insecurity.
FRANCISCO MADEIRA, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union, said Somalia is on the way to taking ownership of its future, with tangible progress signalling an upward trajectory triggered by the concerted efforts of its people, leadership and international partners, including the African Union and the United Nations. Initiatives are enhancing efforts for increased stability, reconciliation, economic growth and prosperity without corruption. Congratulating the Government for adopting an inclusive approach in that regard, he also welcomed progress on the transition plan, the sharing of power and resources, and addressing issues related to constitutional reform.
The creation of a commission to drive forward further progress to support political agreement at the leadership level was a landmark effort, he said. Continued support for the Somali leadership is essential to addressing all outstanding issues relating to the forthcoming elections, including protecting inclusivity. He also applauded the tremendous progress made in terms of debt relief. However, progress must never be taken for granted, he cautioned, emphasizing that the dividends of peace are constantly under threat from competition for power, violent extremism and other obstacles. Through a continued focus on unity of purpose and a strong spirit of partnership, the international community should offer support for the Government’s efforts, he said.
Yet, Al-Shabaab and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) continue to maintain an active presence across Somalia, posing a security threat, he warned, noting that Al-Shabaab continued to use improvised explosive devices and to mount attacks against security forces and humanitarian workers. AMISOM will continue to support efforts to address those and other challenges, he said, adding: “We must not lose sight of the progress of the Government,” he said, citing efforts to ensure a gender balance in ongoing initiatives and the outcomes of the National Security Council meetings earlier in 2018. Such progress must be sustained, he emphasized. He explained that the rationale for the security transition is to build the institutional capacity of the security and justice sectors. Progress is also being made on implementing the transitional plan, he said, welcoming the Government’s efforts in that regard. AMISOM has handed over the Mogadishu Stadium to the Government and the Mission will continue to support Government efforts to implement the transition plan, he said, stressing that the next six months will be critical.
PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women), said that Somalia has a once-in-a-generation opportunity for both peace and gender equality. One of the important positive developments in the country is the representation of women in public office, which was helped by special measures. Women’s representation jumped from 14 per cent to 25 per cent in the last parliamentary elections, bringing important voices to Somali politics, she said. They include voices for ending child marriage, ending female genital mutilation and changing laws that discriminate against women. She pointed out that the participation of women would be boosted further were it not left to clan elders. She noted, however, that many more leaders embrace gender equality and support women.
She went on to urge the Security Council to stand with the federal and state governments in their efforts to advance gender equality, often against the objection of powerful clan-based authorities, and in a country with some of the worst conditions for women and girls. The Council should also interrogate the impact on women of current efforts to counter violent extremism. Somalia is also an important test case for the Secretary-General’s gender parity goals because Somali partners notice the lack of gender balance within the United Nations. “I expect Council members to follow up on implementation of the mandates you gave to AMISON and UNSOM earlier this year, which include many references to gender equality.” There is a need to support women’s participation, not just in elections or electoral reforms, but in efforts to advance national and local reconciliation, prevent violent extremism and reform the security sector. “Peace will not be achieved by military means alone; I know Somalia will not have long‑lasting peace and deep reconciliation without women’s far-reaching contribution and recognition,” she stressed.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), while welcoming further progress on existing efforts for electoral reform, anti-corruption initiatives and improvements to the economy, cautioned that recovery remains fragile, especially in relation to the humanitarian needs of the population. The current difficulties between the Federal Government and the federal states must also be overcome. Condemning recent attacks in Mogadishu, he emphasized the vital need for faster progress on security reform, saying that improving the national security architecture is the way forward. Commending AMISOM and other actors, he said the transition plan must be implemented in a coordinated way and international partners must play their part. Sustainable development and peace depend on inclusivity, particularly of women, with dialogue being the key to further progress across sectors.
TAYE ATSKE SELASSIE (Ethiopia) said reconciliation and the start of normalization processes involving his own country, as well as Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan and Somalia have already provided the possibility of extended economic integration and a wider political response. “The wind of change blowing across the Horn of Africa has rekindled a new sense of hope and optimism for regional peace and stability,” he said. Welcoming the resolution of Somalia’s political crisis several months ago, he underlined the urgent need for the Secretary-General to find solutions to the current tensions between the Federal Government and the federal states. Due attention is also needed to address the recent standoff between “Puntland” and Somaliland forces, he said, voicing support for the efforts of the African Union and other partners. On security challenges, he expressed concern about attacks by ISIL and Al-Shabaab, saying his delegation supports swift implementation of the national security architecture’s reform and the transition plan. Somalia still needs sustained international support to ensure post-conflict recovery, he said, stressing that commitments must be translated into concrete action. AMISOM remains vital and requires predictable support. Commending the Government’s efforts to shoulder a lead role in providing security for its people, he said that such initiatives carry a realistic view of the conditions-based transition in order to ensure that security gains are not reversed.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) commended the efforts of the African Union, UNSOM and the Federal Government while highlighting a number of concerns, including the continued tensions between the Government and the federal states. Applauding the international community’s support for mediation and preventive diplomacy in support of a peaceful and sustainable solution, he commended AMISOM’s efforts on the ground and emphasized that dialogue means learning and establishing areas of common ground. Deeply concerned about the deteriorating security situation arising from attacks by Al-Shabaab and ISIL, as well as cases of kidnapping and sexual violence, he said Bolivia supports efforts to address those issues. The international community must continue to support Somalia, including by working towards implementation of the transition plan, he stressed.
KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire) said that his delegation remained concerned about the recent spike in tensions reflecting a fragile political landscape. Efforts must be made to strengthen federalism and implement the agreed road map, he said. On security, he expressed concern about interclan violence, terrorism and tensions between “Puntland” and Somaliland, calling upon all parties to resolve differences through dialogue. Warning that Al-Shabaab and ISIL pose a great risk of destabilizing Somalia and the entire region, he said the precarious security situation demonstrated the need to maintain AMISOM troops, which the international community must support, he said, calling upon the Somali authorities to boost power‑sharing and security reform efforts. The humanitarian situation is also worrisome, he noted, calling on the relevant authorities to protect the population and on all parties to respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law. On the economy, he underlined the essential need for reconstruction, saying Somalia’s efforts must receive the support they deserve from all partners.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), voicing concerns over interclan conflicts, the grave humanitarian situation and political instability, condemned terrorist attacks by Al-Shabaab and other extremist groups. Noting recent positive developments, he expressed hope that Parliament will make swift headway in revising the Constitution and the electoral process. He also highlighted the importance of participation by women and youth in political life, and in efforts to counter terrorism. There must also be better ways to deal with victims of sexual violence, implement the reform of national security structures, and the handover of security responsibility to Somali national forces, he said. Welcoming the positive political developments in the Horn of Africa, including the end of the dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea, he urged the international community to increase support for Somalia’s recovery and its efforts to build sustained peace.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said that the past few months have seen positive regional developments occur at an astonishing pace, driven mainly by the rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The tripartite summit in Eritrea and last week’s high-level meeting in Djibouti between regional foreign ministers hold out the prospect of true change and the possibility to end the instability that has plagued the Horn of Africa for far too long, he noted. “It is imperative that Somali actors now seize this opportunity for historic and significant change and continue this positive trajectory in addressing its own internal conflicts, not least the aggravated situation between Puntland and Somaliland,” he said. He welcomed the successful outcome of the Somalia Partnership Forum co-hosted by Sweden, Somalia and the European Union in July, while also commending UNSOM’s efforts to engage women and increase their political representation. The Council must stand with the efforts of the federal and state governments to advance gender equality, he stressed.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) commended the transition of security responsibilities to Somali forces, saying it must continue along an agreed timeline. Progress must also be made in implementing the transition plan, which depends on establishing a strong national security architecture, and in ensuring that AMISOM’s mandate is reconfigured to maintain the trajectory towards eventual withdrawal. The Council must address the latter issue alongside related concerns, she said, emphasizing that the European Union cannot continue to finance the Mission alone and that new partners must commit to providing support. Somalia’s success also depends on continued progress on the political level, including electoral reform, she said, calling on all stakeholders to participate constructively in dialogue to resolve differences, while underscoring also the importance of women’s inclusion in all related processes.
WU HAITAO (China) commended recent developments, including economic progress, but highlighted many challenges, including terrorism. Somalia has a long way to go and the international community must continue to lend its support, with UNSOM providing targeted assistance across sectors, he said. Efforts should continue to help the Government fight terrorism and step up economic growth initiatives aimed at improving the lives of Somalis. Voicing support for African‑led efforts to address those and other challenges, he recalled that his country’s Government recently hosted a China-Africa meeting aimed at strengthening security cooperation, among other goals.
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) urged the Federal Government and AMISOM to accelerate implementation of the transition plan, underlining that the next months are critical to success and that the international community must show its support. The root causes of the conflict must be addressed and strengthening the rule of law is critical in that regard. Reforming the security sector rests on phasing out AMISOM and depending on a strong justice framework, he said, emphasizing that the Federal Government must demonstrate real progress in that regard. Concerned about the impact of climate change on stability, he called upon the United Nations and the Federal Government to foster progress in accordance with Council resolution 2408 (2018). He also expressed concern about the continued effect of conflict on civilians, calling upon the Government and international partners to ensure that all efforts are made to prevent casualties.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said every effort must be made to preserve Somalia’s hard-earned stability. He commended the regional political leadership’s advance towards a long-awaited peaceful and prosperous future for Somalia, as well as the latter’s efforts to create an inclusive electoral system. The international community must demonstrate sustained and coordinated support, he added. However, terrorist threats, as well as sexual and gender-based violence continue to threaten gains, he said, emphasizing that coordinated support from international partners is critical to addressing those and other concerns. The appropriate transfer of security responsibility from AMISOM to national security forces is essential to avoid a security vacuum, he said, noting the Government’s efforts to stem the proliferation of weapons, among other things. Equally important is rapid economic recovery, he said, encouraging further concrete steps by the Government to implement fiscal reforms and urging international support for further development and for addressing the root causes of Somalia’s crisis.
AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea) expressed dismay at Al-Shabaab’s attacks against Government buildings in Mogadishu, noting that, despite the improvements recorded on the ground, the security situation remains worrying. The issue of security deserves absolute priority support by the United Nations, she emphasized, adding that the Government of Somalia should receive international support to tackle the root causes of conflict. She also highlighted the need for better cooperation between the federal and state governments on such issues as power‑sharing, revising the Constitution, holding elections, supporting security, and establishing a federal justice model. She also voiced concern about sexual violence against women and girls, demanding accountability.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) welcomed the recent diplomatic developments in the Horn of Africa involving Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti, expressing hope that those countries will find peaceful solutions to outstanding issues with a view to forging new durable partnerships and economic cooperation for the benefit of regional security and sustainable growth. She also welcomed the progress achieved so far in Somalia, while noting that the situation remains fragile. She said her delegation remains deeply concerned about the dire humanitarian situation and such natural disasters as drought and flooding, saying they have exacerbated the already difficult conditions in camps for the internally displaced.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said that the League of Arab States welcomes the positive developments in Somalia, including efforts for national reconciliation, the political situation under the elected President and improved economic conditions. He also took note of positive developments in the Horn of Africa. However, the security situation is concerning, he said, condemning terrorist attacks, including recent heinous acts by Al-Shabaab. He welcomed the introduction of a new police model, and the ongoing handover of security responsibility to Somali forces.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) commended recent progress on electoral reform and the sharing of revenues from natural resources. Calling upon all parties to resolve their differences, he expressed concern about terrorist activities, saying the authorities have a large job to counter that threat, including ensuring the transfer of responsibility to Somali security forces. There was a critical need to adapt AMISOM, he said, emphasizing the Russian Federation’s readiness to discuss related financial support. He went on to underline the importance of including women in all processes working for progress, while expressing hope that recent reconciliation efforts in the region will lead to prosperity and stability across the Horn of Africa.
NIKKI R. HALEY (United States), Council President for September, spoke in her national capacity, commending the troops operating in Somalia, as well as AMISOM’s efforts and initiatives to transfer security responsibility to Somali forces. Progress on the political track is equally important, she said, calling upon the authorities to de-escalate tensions and to ensure that efforts are made to lay the groundwork for successful elections. The Security Council must support progress alongside AMISOM, UNSOM and the Government of Somalia, she emphasized, adding: “If we stay unified, we will ultimately see a prosperous Somalia.”
ABUKAR DAHIR OSMAN (Somalia) said that inclusive politics and legitimate governance are the basis for future progress, yet the path towards that end is not always smooth, he noted. “These are formative years for Somalia and the emergence of new forms of government is often a turbulent process,” he said, outlining the ways in which the Government is working through challenges. Highlighting the forthcoming national discourse, he urged all federal states to “join us at the table” to enable constructive dialogue. Citing further examples of success, he noted the steady progress made by the Federalization Negotiation Technical Committee, including on establishing an election model, sharing resources and the allocation of powers.
Turning to the security situation and the vicious threat posed by Al‑Shabaab, he urged the Security Council to take urgent steps to cut off the means of the terrorist group’s survival and to propose clear and adequate resources to help the relevant sanctions committee identify its supporters. Government initiatives are now tackling terrorist threats through a range of measures, he said, adding that efforts to advance the security transition process continue. More broadly, economic recovery has been a priority for the Government, he said, highlighting its work with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and initiatives to mobilize domestic revenue.
The Government also remains committed to promoting the equality of all citizens, as well as the empowerment of women, he stressed. Commending the work of United Nations agencies working in those areas, he said the Ministry of Women and Human Rights is making strides to advance women’s participation in the 2020‑2021 elections, including by holding the first national women’s conference. “We will continue strong on the path of realizing our common vision of a peaceful, stable and democratic Somalia that is self-reliant and an evident factor of perpetual regional peace and cooperation,” he said, thanking all partners for their efforts and sacrifices in assisting his country to strengthen the foundations of peace, democracy and development.