Peaceful Transfer of Power in Somalia Offers Long-Awaited Opportunity to Advance Urgent National Priorities, Special Representative Tells Security Council
The peaceful transfer of power following the conclusion of elections on 15 May offers a long-awaited opportunity for Somalia to make progress on urgent national priorities, the top United Nations official in that country told the Security Council today.
“It is past time for Somali leaders to move beyond the prolonged political contest to focus on urgent national priorities,” said James Swan, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).
Describing the conclusion of Somalia’s electoral process as a major milestone for the country, he noted that Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected Somalia’s new President by a decisive margin. Outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo graciously conceded and the new President was immediately sworn in and the outcome has been fully accepted.
The Special Representative said that the new President emphasized national reconciliation, improving relations between the central Government and federal member states, addressing the security threat from Al-Shabaab, finishing the constitutional review and judicial reforms, completing election-related laws, ensuring compliance with international financial institutions’ requirements for debt relief and giving urgent attention to the dire drought conditions.
The entire United Nations system in Somalia is ready to work with the new Government in support of these shared goals, he added.
Francisco Caetano Jose Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia and Head of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), detailed joint work between the Government and ATMIS, which was created as a result of reconfiguration from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
He said that since 1 April, transition activities have focused on the disruption of Al-Shabaab, the mentoring and training of Somali security forces, and joint planning with them. Other planned activities with the forces include the second convening of a logistics conference and an equipment review, enabling the two to develop a joint reconfiguration plan.
Predictable funding and equipment attuned to force mobility are vital to degrading Al-Shabaab, he insisted, underscoring the need to scale up air strategic support, notably with helicopters and other assets. It is also critically important for international partners to prioritize enhanced support for the Federal Government to raise pay and procure equipment, enabling authorities to assume full responsibility for Somalia’s security.
In the ensuing discussion, delegates broadly welcomed the completion of the electoral process but expressed regret that the 30 per cent quota for women in Parliament has not been met. Many speakers condemned brutal attacks by Al-Shabaab and highlighted the need to address the dire humanitarian conditions.
The United Kingdom’s representative said that the ongoing threat posed by Al-Shabaab highlights the need for the new Government to secure broad-based political agreement on a national security architecture that is effective, affordable and facilitates sustainable transition to Somali-led security, while maintaining pressure on Al-Shabaab.
Gabon’s delegate, speaking also for Ghana and Kenya, joined an appeal by the African Union Peace and Security Council for international partners to make further financing commitments to ATMIS to enable its mandate implementation for the next 30 months. He called for capacity-building for the Somali forces to counter “an explosive security cocktail” made of foreign fighters allied with various clan militias.
The representative of the United States, Council President for May, spoke in her national capacity, urging the new Somali Government to address the dire humanitarian situation. If the Russian Federation’s brutal war in Ukraine continues to prevent wheat and other foods from reaching Somalia, it may push that country well over to the brink of famine, she warned.
Calling for scaled up humanitarian aid to Somalia, India’s representative pointed out that 7.7 million people need urgent assistance, however the $1.5 billion humanitarian response plan for this year remains barely funded. For its part, India continues to support Somalia through developmental assistance and capacity-building programmes.
Echoing the sentiment of many Council members, the speaker for Mexico welcomed the election of the first woman Deputy Speaker of Somalia’s House of the People, nonetheless expressing regret that the 30 per cent quota was not achieved and that the number of women in Parliament is lower than in 2016.
Somalia’s representative said that the newly elected President and Parliament are prepared to continue to deepen federalism and reconciliation and to tackle socioeconomic, structural, and political issues. The more immediate challenge is the threats posed by Al-Shabaab. “There is no doubt that we are succeeding in the fight against Al-Shabaab in a multi-pronged approach, embedded in the political strategy,” he said, adding that the brave Somali national forces are dismantling Al-Shabaab hideouts and financial networks as the country prepares to assume full security responsibility from ATMIS to pave the way for the agreed exit by 2024.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Norway, France, China, Albania, Ireland, Brazil, Russian Federation and the United Arab Emirates.
The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 4:48 p.m.
JAMES SWAN, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), described the conclusion of Somalia’s electoral process last week as a major milestone for the country. Once the senators and members of Parliament were sworn in on 14 April, they moved quickly to elect the Speaker and two Deputy Speakers in each chamber. On 15 May 2022, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected Somalia’s new President by a decisive margin, outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo graciously conceded, the new President was immediately sworn in and the outcome has been fully accepted. “It is past time for Somali leaders to move beyond the prolonged political contest to focus on urgent national priorities,” he said.
The new President emphasized national reconciliation, improving relations between the central Government and federal member states, addressing the security threat from Al-Shabaab, finishing the constitutional review and judicial reforms, completing election-related laws, ensuring compliance with international financial institutions’ requirements for debt relief and giving urgent attention to the dire drought conditions, he said. The entire United Nations system in Somalia is ready to work with the new Government in support of these shared goals.
Contrary to Somalia’s provisional constitution, the Somali people did not have the opportunity to vote for the House of the People in a one-person-one-vote election, he explained. Women were elected to just 21 per cent of parliamentary seats, well short of the 30 per cent goal set by Somalis themselves. Many irregularities in the selection of Parliament members were noted throughout the process, which was repeatedly marred by tragic incidents of violence with numerous civilian casualties recorded, he stated, calling on Somalia’s leaders to do better for their people in the next electoral cycle. The security situation remains highly volatile. In recent months Al-Shabaab — emboldened by domestic political tensions — focused attacks in Mogadishu, South-West State, and Hirshabelle. The spate of deadly incidents in March and April suggested an effort to disrupt the final phases of the electoral process.
Since the formal transition from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) on 1 April, both Somali and African Union security officials have been heavily focused on electoral security. Now that the election is over, it will be important to reinvigorate structures previously agreed by the Security and Justice Committee to support coordination, prioritize force generation and integration, mobilize resources and build capacity of the security forces, he stressed, calling on the new Administration to demonstrate its full political commitment and leadership in delivering the agreed security transition. The United Nations Support Office for Somalia (UNSOS) continues to provide support under its mandate to ATMIS forces and has established and staffed a transition cell to ensure it is well postured to meet the needs of the new African Union mission.
Turning to the humanitarian situation, he warned that following four consecutive failed rainy seasons, the number of people affected by the drought has risen to 6.1 million. The country faces a heightened risk of localized famine in six communities if food prices continue to rise and humanitarian assistance is not sustained. The 2022 humanitarian response plan is just 15 per cent funded, he noted, calling for more donations.
FRANCISCO CAETANO JOSE MADEIRA, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia and Head of ATMIS, said the most far-reaching development in Somalia is the successful conclusion of the “prolonged and painstaking” electoral process, which culminated in the President’s election on 15 May. This peaceful transfer of power, which honours a practice that is now Somalia’s political tradition, creates conditions conducive for national dialogue and deepening of reconciliation efforts that will require cooperation between the Federal Government and the National Federal States.
With the new Parliament elected, he said the doors are now open for a new chapter to be written about hope, opportunity and the determination of the Somali people who have maintained their identity despite all odds and remain steadfast, resilient and determined to reconcile. Despite a robust campaign for greater women’s representation, the 30 per cent quota for women was not achieved. “This is a source of concern,” he said, citing the African Union Agenda 2063 objective to ensure gender equality and priority.
He drew attention to President Mohamoud’s campaign under the banner of “putting Somalis in agreement, and in agreement with the world”, and his pledge to liberate the country from Al-Shabaab, underscoring the importance of opening supply hubs, implementing a governance system based on the Constitution and prioritizing humanitarian issues, as well as democratization, economic development and proactive foreign policy. The spirit of these endeavours should align with that of Agenda 2063, Council resolution 2628 (2022) and the 8 March meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council.
He called for empowering and supporting the Somali security forces to achieve force generation, reconfiguration and implementation of the transition plan, underscoring the need to halt Al-Shabaab, open the main supply routes to stimulate the free movement of people and goods, and advance good governance as actions that justify the ATMIS presence in Somalia. Underscoring the African Union’s continued solidarity with Somalia as it gives content to these aspirations and goals, he said now is time for the international community to rally in support of the President and his Government as they confidently start the long road “to one person, one vote” in their moves to consolidate democracy.
He went on to cite Al-Shabaab attacks throughout the electoral period, often involving improvised explosive devices, grenades, mortars, ambushes and the assassination of Government officials, election delegates and security forces. On 23 March, Al-Shabaab fighters disguised in military uniforms infiltrated and attacked an international airport, while on 19 February, an improvised explosive device exploded at restaurant, killing 18 people, including Government officials. Later, an Al-Shabaab suicide bomber blew himself up during electoral activities, while a subsequent improvised explosive device attack killed 50 people, including a member of Parliament. “A resurgent Al-Shabaab will continue to challenge Somalia,” he stressed, requiring a robust response.
Detailing joint work between ATMIS and the Government, he said that since 1 April, transition activities have focused on the disruption of Al-Shabaab, the mentoring and training of Somali security forces, and joint planning with them. Other planned activities with the forces include the second convening of a logistics conference and an equipment review, enabling the two to develop a joint reconfiguration plan. Predictable funding and equipment attuned to force mobility are vital to degrading Al-Shabaab, he insisted, underscoring the need to scale up air strategic support, notably with helicopters and other assets. It is also critically important for international partners to prioritize enhanced support for the Federal Government to raise pay and procure equipment, enabling authorities to assume full responsibility for Somalia’s security.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) noted that the recent conclusion of the electoral process provides an opportunity to end political uncertainty and re-focus on issues of urgent national importance: addressing the threat posed by Al-Shabaab, maintaining fiscal stability, delivering constitutional reform, and responding to the devastating drought. He also expressed regret that representation of women in Parliament was once again below the 30 per cent target. The ongoing threat posed by Al-Shabaab highlights the need for the new Government to secure broad-based political agreement on a national security architecture that is effective, affordable, and facilitates sustainable transition to Somali-led security, while maintaining pressure on Al-Shabaab, he said. Highlighting the alarming impact of the drought and the increasing risk of famine in Somalia, he called for more funds and collective action for prevention, noting that his country has announced an additional $31 million in response to the humanitarian crisis in Somalia on top of the $25 million already committed this year.
TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway), congratulating Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on his election, welcomed the priorities of national reconciliation, security, economic recovery and inclusive stability. Constructive dialogue between the President and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already yielded results. Revitalizing the Constitutional reform process deserves the Government’s full attention and the Council’s support, as it is a crucial step towards reaching consensus on federalism, reconciliation and preparing for democratic elections in 2026. She looked forward to the swift formation of a new inclusive Federal Government to advance these priorities. Expressing Norway’s disappointment over the setback in women’s representation in Parliament, she nonetheless congratulated Saadia Yasin Haji Samatar on being the first woman to hold the office of First Deputy Speaker. She also expressed deep concern over persistent attacks by Al-Shabaab, stressing that implementation of the Transition Plan is key to restoring security and protecting civilians. ATMIS’ newly adopted mandate must be supplemented by a strengthened approach to national reconciliation, stabilization and a possible dialogue track. Stressing that Somalia is on the brink of famine and facing recurrent droughts, flooding, conflict, locusts and rising food and fuel prices, she called for finding more sustainable solutions to these recurring emergencies.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) described the completion of elections and a peaceful transfer of power as “a historic moment” and an important step towards the stabilization of Somalia, expressing her country’s support for the new President. Encouraging the Somali authorities to continue their efforts to achieve the 30 per cent quota for women in Parliament, she welcomed the election of Saadia Yasin Haji Samatar as the first Somali woman to serve as Deputy Speaker of the People’s Assembly. Condemning the terrorist attacks by Al-Shabaab on 23 March and 3 May, she said these attacks confirm the urgency of waging a more effective fight against that group. Council resolution 2628 (2022) that endorsed the reconfiguration of AMISOM into ATMIS is a step in the right direction. Citing a 6 March attack off Puntland, she reiterated the availability of the European Union’s Operation Atalanta to enhance Somalia’s maritime security. Operation Atalanta helps fight piracy, acts to stem the illicit flows of arms and coal that benefits Al-Shabaab, and escorts the ships of the World Food Programme (WFP), she noted.
DAI BING (China) welcomed the completion of elections as “turning a new page” in Somalia’s governance. Commending the firm resolve shown by Somalis to maintain stability, he expressed hope that the new Government can speed up national reconstruction. However, peace in that country faces severe challenges from armed groups like Al-Shabaab. Noting the reconfiguration of AMISOM into ATMIS, he said it is imperative to implement the Somali security transition plan by building national capacity. In doing so, the United Nations, Somali authorities and the African Union must be clear about their division of labour and should establish benchmarks. He said the humanitarian situation is worrying, including the lack of food security, warning that the United Nations humanitarian response plan is chronically underfunded. He also warned against neglecting development issues, expressing his country’s support for Somalia.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) welcomed the election of the first woman Deputy Speaker of Parliament but expressed regret that the 30 per cent quota for women was not met. It is of paramount importance to ensure women’s inclusion in the new Administration at all levels of government, as their contribution is key. The new Government must move fast to tackle urgent issues, including the economic reform programme agreed with the IMF. Recalling that on 31 March the Council endorsed the decision to reconfigure AMISOM into ATMIS, she expressed regret that during the reporting period, a certain lethargy towards fighting Al-Shabaab has been seen. It is also worrisome to see the lack of significant progress in countering impunity, which further fuels sexual and gender-based violence. All parties must respect their obligations under human rights and international humanitarian law. Albania supports UNSOM and is confident that the Council will speak with one strong voice in renewing the Mission’s mandate, she said.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) commended the peaceful transition of power, which is critical to creating the stable political environment needed to tackle Somalia’s longstanding problems. While regretting that the goal of 30 per cent women was not met, she nonetheless congratulated Saadia Yasin Haji for becoming the first women to ever hold the role of Deputy Speaker and encouraged the incoming Administration to build on their electoral promises to ensure the meaningful participation of women, including at senior levels. Addressing the dire humanitarian crisis in Somalia will be among the most urgent priorities, as millions of people are at risk for climate-induced shocks, including the devastating drought and looming famine. The human rights of all Somalis, and in particular women and girls, must be prioritized, protected and respected, as increasingly many are the victims of abhorrent sexual violence. The African Union, the Somali Government and its forces, and all partners need to refocus on implementing ATMIS’s mandate and addressing the Somalia Transition Plan. A key element will be strengthening Somalia’s national security architecture and ensuring genuine security sector reform in order for Somalia to gradually take full responsibility for its own security, she said. She also urged the new Administration to steer the country and its politics onto a path of dialogue, inclusivity, and consensus that delivers for the Somali people.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), also speaking for Ghana and Kenya, hailed the decisive role of Somali forces and ATMIS, regional and strategic partners, and the Somali people themselves for their will to ensure a democratic process. He also welcomed that the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have provided support for democratic governance, the promotion of reconciliation and re-establishment of security throughout the country. “We are convinced that the elections will mark a turning point for Somalia,” he said, describing the activities of Al-Shabaab and Islamic State affiliates as a major concern for Somalia, the region and the continent. Recent cross-border events show the ability of Al-Shabaab in particular to adapt and inflict damage on civilian and security infrastructure alike. He expressed round condemnation for all attacks the group has carried out, echoing the African Union Peace and Security Council appeal for international partners to make further financing commitments to ATMIS, allowing it to carry out its mandate for the next 30 months.
He said foreign fighters are allied to various clan militias, making for “an explosive security cocktail”, calling for capacity-building for the Somali forces and expressing support for the financing of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts, which are crucial for establishing a State that is free from the terrorist threat. He condemned the recruitment of children into terrorist groups as “intolerable” and urged respect for international humanitarian law and human rights. He also urged Somalia to build the rule of law and respect for human dignity. “The Somali people are counting on us,” he said. “Our inaction will increase the vulnerability of this population.”
EMERSON CORAIOLA YINDE KLOSS (Brazil), commending Somalia for the peaceful conclusion of its elections, emphasized support to UNSOM. Brazil shares the sense of priority that surrounds the upcoming mandate renewal and is confident UNSOM will maintain its core objectives with its new authorization and its future strategic review will provide additional assistance to policymaking and peacebuilding in Somalia. He went on to underline his country’s condemnation of terrorism in all its forms in Somalia, recalling the terror attack by Al-Shabaab earlier this month, which claimed the lives of African “Blue Helmets”, particularly Burundian peacekeepers. These ATMIS soldiers and all that have worked on behalf of the African Union forces have been part of one of the most dangerous tasks that any person might face, he said, expressing deep appreciation to the African peacekeepers and contributing countries.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) congratulated Somalia on the holding of its parliamentary and presidential elections and expressed hope that authorities will soon form a Federal Government. She urged them to devote greater attention to security, expressing concern over Al-Shabaab activities in Somalia’s regions, as well as its capital, and citing an attack on the Burundi contingent of ATMIS. She expressed hope that the Transition Mission will be able to carry out its agenda, allowing Mogadishu to take complete responsibility for the country’s security. The Transition Mission’s effectiveness will depend on sustainable financing for African peacekeeping operations. The transfer to Somalia’s army should take place gradually, depending on ground conditions. She called on the United States, as well as international and regional partners, to continue to assist Somalia, while respecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity and not interfering in its internal affairs.
ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) welcomed the election of the first woman Deputy Speaker of Somalia’s House of the People, nonetheless expressing regret that the 30 per cent quota was not achieved and that the number of women in Parliament is lower than in 2016. She urged the new Government to prioritize peace, and not spare any effort to ensure the well-being of the Somali people. She called for promoting cooperation with federal member states, urging all political actors to work together to implement agreements that benefit the population. She condemned in the firmest terms attacks by Al-Shabaab, noting that the group generates sufficient income through extortion, control of agriculture and trafficking in explosives. She called for ending its access to such finance and ensuring the effectiveness of the embargo. She also pressed the new authorities to speed implementation of their commitments and ensure that the perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence are held accountable. She also accused Al-Shabaab of exploiting the effects of climate change, notably drought, which exacerbate the risk of famine and stoke communal tensions, to increase their power, and encouraged greater coordination among ATMIS, UNSOM and UNSOS to ensure the country moves towards sustainable peace.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) echoing the call of the Secretary-General for continued security assistance to Somalia, stressed the importance of preventing a security vacuum that enables Al-Shabaab to expand its influence and scope during the transfer of security responsibilities from ATMIS to the Somali security forces. Condemning Al-Shabaab terrorist acts in Somalia and the region, including in Kenya, she expressed concern about reported smuggling of weapons, including between Somalia and Yemen, which risk falling into the hands of terrorist groups such as Al-Shabaab and the Houthis. Turning to the dire humanitarian situation, she pointed out that nearly 800,000 people have been displaced by the drought since early 2021, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recently reported that 4.8 million people are experiencing acute food insecurity. Highlighting the urgent need for ATMIS, the United Nations country team, and others to build on the pioneering climate and peacebuilding work in Somalia, she stressed the importance of coordinated investment in food, water and basic services in fragile communities.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) said “the people of Somalia have the unique honour of being Africa’s first democrats”, stressing that the culmination of the election process is an opportunity to revive that legacy and welcoming the peaceful transfer of power. Recalling the terror attack by Al-Shabaab on the ATMIS Forward Operating Base in Elbaraf in early May, he said preventing terror outfits such as Al-Shabaab from accessing financial resources is crucial, as is addressing terrorism’s links to transnational organized crime. Implementation of the Somali Transition Plan and national security architecture must be prioritized with better coordination and integration of regional security forces. Concerned that ATMIS’ financing issues remain unresolved, he called for sustained, predictable funding and international support to consolidate security gains. He also called for scaled up humanitarian efforts for the country, as 7.7 million people need urgent assistance, especially in the wake of the drought and looming famine. However, the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan requiring $1.5 billion remains barely funded. For its part, India continues to support Somalia through developmental assistance and capacity-building programmes.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), Council President for May, spoke in her national capacity, expressing full support for the upcoming renewal of the UNSOM mandate. Welcoming the completion of the electoral process, she said her Government looks forward to working closely with Somalia’s newly elected leaders. After four years of infighting, reconciliation among the Federal Government and federal member states is vital for the country to retain a positive momentum and tackle serious challenges. Al-Shabaab continues to post a threat. Its 3 May attack against Burundi troops and national security forces is “all the proof we need”, she said. Security in Somalia and the region relies on use of every tool in its arsenal to fight terrorism. It means providing support to ATMIS and Somali security forces. A new Somali Government must address the dire humanitarian situation, including the plight of 6 million people who may go hungry or thirsty because of the devastating droughts. If the Russian Federation’s brutal war in Ukraine continues to prevent wheat and other foods from reaching Somalia, it may push that country well over to the brink of famine, she warned. She called on the new Somali Government to engage with international financial institutions to ensure that the process under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative remains on track.
ABUKAR DAHIR OSMAN (Somalia) said that the presidential election took place on the eve of the seventy-ninth anniversary of the founding of the first Somali political party — the Somali Youth League — which was singularly instrumental in achieving Somalia’s independence and unity in 1960. Hope and optimism created by the Somali Youth League are also a major source of the current optimism for achieving peace and creating a better Somalia. “With the election of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, we continue our proud longstanding tradition of peaceful transition of power in Africa,” he said. The newly elected President and Parliament are prepared to continue to deepen federalism and reconciliation and to tackle socioeconomic, structural, and political issues. Those tasks are not easy, but Somalia trusts its partners in helping the country towards debt relief and access to international institutions, which are essential for economic development and better living conditions. The more immediate challenge is the threats posed by Al-Shabaab. “There is no doubt that we are succeeding in the fight against Al-Shabaab in a multi-pronged approach, embedded in the political strategy,” he said. The brave Somali national forces are dismantling Al-Shabaab hideouts and financial networks as the country prepares to assume full security responsibility from ATMIS to pave the way for the agreed exit by 2024.