Amid Devastating Drought, Ongoing Rights Violations, Somalia Pushes Forward in Fight against Al-Shabaab Terror Group, Security Council Hears
Representative of Federal Government Calls for Lifting of Arms Embargo, Citing Strides Towards Planned Security Handover to National Authorities
The Federal Government of Somalia has made significant progress since the Council last took up the situation in September 2022 — including on such national priorities as the fight against the Al-Shabaab terrorist group — senior officials told the Security Council today, as members warned that an ongoing drought is expected to render half the population food insecure by mid-2023 and place the country at increased risk of famine.
Highlighting progress made, Anita Kiki Gbeho, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, drew attention to the Federal Government’s close cooperation with the country’s federal member states — local governments with a degree of autonomy — and fresh momentum in the fight against Al-Shabaab terrorists. The country also remains on track to complete its debt relief process in 2024. However, as those efforts continue and the Government works to manage the devastating impacts of a severe drought, Somalia also faces recurrent political conflicts, such as fighting that broke out in early February in Las Anod town in the Sool region. More than 185,000 people were displaced by those incidents and at least 63 civilians were killed. Describing Al-Shabaab as a serious threat to peace and security, she said 2022 was the deadliest for civilians in Somalia since 2017, with a 60 per cent increase in civilian casualties compared to 2021.
Turning to the dire humanitarian situation, which is being exacerbated by the country’s unprecedented drought, she reported that 8.3 million people — nearly half the population — need assistance in 2023. While prevented for now, famine remains a threat if the April to June rains underperform as forecasted, and if humanitarian assistance is not sustained. Against this backdrop, she noted that the United Nations 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan is seeking $2.6 billion to meet the priority needs of some 7.6 million people.
Also briefing the Council today was Mohammed El-Amine Souef, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia and Head of African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), who pointed to a visit by Somalia’s President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, to the region of Middle Shabelle in November. The move resulted in a cessation of hostilities between two local communities, which has since played a central role in the Government’s removal of Al-Shabaab from the region. Noting that the terrorist group is now under immense operational pressure, he said its losses represent strategic and operational gains for the Federal Government. Nonetheless, Al-Shabaab still retains the capability to carry out decisive operations and is seeking to change some of its tactics.
He went on to detail various efforts and operations by ATMIS, noting the Mission’s involvement in ongoing offensives which have included use of ATMIS helicopters to provide close air support, as well as provision of casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) of Somali Security Forces troops from the battlefield. The Mission has also provided combat service support, such as ammunition, water, drugs and field accommodation. Calling for more detailed planning between the Federal Government and ATMIS, he expressed concern about the shortfall in funding available to the Mission, as well as to the Somali Security Forces.
Sima Bahous, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), also addressed the Council. She noted that, in the last weeks alone, nearly 200,000 people have been displaced by fighting from the northern town of Las Anod, with more than 60,000 — mainly women and children — fleeing to neighbouring Ethiopia. Citing an “alarming increase” in sexual violence since 2020, which has been exacerbated by the dire humanitarian situation, she said the worst drought in many decades is having a devastating impact on women and girls, who are forced to take on increased economic burdens and are more vulnerable to sexual assault as they travel longer distances to fetch water and firewood.
Turning to violence against women and girls perpetrated by Al-Shabaab, she said the terrorist group continues to abduct women and girls and provided several recent examples. Lamenting that a draft sexual offences bill still has not been passed by Somalia’s Parliament, she warned that its opponents are pushing for alternative legislation that would legalize child marriage, omit the age of consent, reduce the types of admissible evidence and take away the rights of survivors.
As Council members took the floor, several welcomed the Government’s determination to fight Al-Shabaab while strongly condemning the group’s terrorist attacks. In that context, numerous delegates drew attention to a recent regional Summit in Mogadishu, noting the critical importance of its recommendations to completely free Somalia of Al-Shabaab’s influence.
The representative of Ghana, also speaking on behalf of Gabon and Mozambique, voiced support for women’s full participation in Somalia’s peacebuilding efforts. Describing Al-Shabaab — like other terrorist groups active in the Sahel, West and Southern Africa — as “a transnational threat”, he called for additional resources to counter its ability to conduct operations in Somalia and other parts of the region. Commending the Government of Somalia’s determination to eliminate Al-Shabaab’s footprint, he said the liberation of the port town of Xarardheere — a key financial hub for the group — was critical to degrade Al-Shabaab’s financial infrastructure.
The representative of Ecuador condemned Al-Shabaab’s heinous attacks, stressing that the group must be held accountable for its human rights abuses. He also condemned attacks and threats against humanitarian personnel and denounced the looting and destruction of humanitarian goods. Noting that inclusive democracy is key for overcoming conflicts, building institutions and implementing policies on social development, he voiced hope that progress will continue on Somalia’s electoral plans. He further advocated for women’s political and social inclusion to ensure their equitable participation in legislative and Government institutions.
China’s delegate urged the parties to the conflict in Las Anod to cease their fire immediately. Noting that external countries cannot realize lasting peace and security through their military operations alone, he stressed that Somalia must have the improved capacity to shoulder its primary responsibility of fighting terrorism and maintaining security. He underscored that 8 million people in the country are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and 1.3 million have been displaced, while calling for increased assistance to Somalia and urging its Government to reduce bureaucratic restrictions on humanitarian work.
The representative of Malta expressed deep disappointment that current conditions did not allow for the safe participation of a Somali civil society briefer at today’s Council meeting, which had been anticipated. “We remain firm in our belief that the voice of civil society needs to be heard […] without fear of reprisals, harassment or abuse,” she stressed. Calling for free and fair elections and a civic space representing all stakeholders, she stressed that equal participation of women is the backbone of any society. Against that backdrop, she commended the launch of the Somali Women’s Charter and the National Action Plan.
Rounding out the discussion, the representative of Somalia highlighted that, since the Council’s last briefing on the topic, his country’s Federal Government has finalized the national security architecture, paving the way to address division of powers with the federal member states and the Somali Security Forces. The National Armed Forces have intensified their offensive operations against Al-Shabaab in the states of Galmudug and Hirshabelle. Despite the longstanding arms embargo on the country, Somali Security Forces began to conduct clearance and target operations in Southwest State and Jubaland State. Pointing out that the Government has successfully achieved 90 per cent of the objectives listed in its previous report to the Council, he went on to call for the lifting of the longstanding arms embargo imposed on his country.
Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, United States, France, Albania, Switzerland, Brazil, Japan and Russian Federation.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:11 p.m.
ANITA KIKI GBEHO, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, said that since the Council’s last briefing on Somalia, on 7 September 2022, the Federal Government has made significant progress in advancing its key national priorities. There has been close cooperation with the federal member states and fresh momentum in the fight against the Al-Shabaab terrorist group, and the country remains on track to complete its debt relief process in 2024. Through regular meetings with the National Consultative Council, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has taken steps to prioritize relations between the Federal Government and federal member states and advance priorities for state-building. She encouraged both the Federal Government and federal member states to continue dialogue within the National Consultative Council framework towards a consensus on Somalia’s state-building agenda.
Welcoming the Federal Government’s continued commitment to implement the women, peace and security agenda — as demonstrated by the launch of a National Action Plan on Council resolution 1325 (2000) — she said the plan is timely, as it lays out a framework to address the many challenges facing Somali women. Noting in particular the need for greater women’s representation in all facets of public life, she said that includes ensuring that political leaders codify and implement their commitments to an agreed quota requiring 30 per cent of lawmakers in Somalia to be women. The United Nations continues to support newly elected women representatives. For example, through the Women, Peace and Protection Joint Programme, the United Nations supported the establishment of a women’s caucus in the Federal Parliament’s Upper House. “I call on all stakeholders to redouble their efforts towards achieving this objective,” she stressed.
As the Government seeks to advance post-election priorities, including countering Al-Shabaab and managing the devasting impact of an ongoing drought, it is also facing recurrent political conflicts. For example, the fighting that broke out in early February in Las Anod town, in the Sool region, has led to increased humanitarian needs. More than 185,000 people were displaced and at least 63 civilians were killed, with more than 363 people injured. Al-Shabaab remains a serious threat to peace and security, she said, noting that 2022 was the deadliest for civilians since 2017, with a 60 per cent increase in civilian casualties compared to 2021. The Federal Government has made progress by targeting Al-Shabaab’s military and financial operations and its ideological narrative.
In the same vein, she reported that Somalia’s security forces — reinforced by local militias — have carried out successful operations against Al-Shabaab in Hirshabelle and Galmudug states. At the same time, the Government continues its force generation efforts, aimed at gradually assuming security responsibilities in line with the Somali transition plan. Against that backdrop, she repeated the Secretary-General’s previous calls for predictable and sustainable funding for the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) and for Somali security forces. Turning to the humanitarian situation, she said the current drought is unprecedented in its severity following five consecutive poor rainy seasons. Humanitarian needs continue to rise steadily, with about 8.3 million people — or nearly half of the population — needing assistance and protection in 2023. While prevented for now, famine remains a threat if the April to June rains underperform as forecasted and if humanitarian assistance is not sustained. In that regard, she noted that the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan, launched on 8 February, is seeking $2.6 billion to meet the priority needs of 7.6 million people.
MOHAMMED EL-AMINE SOUEF, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia and Head of ATMIS, said Somalia’s President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, is leading significant progress on key national priorities and has taken decisive steps to accelerate inclusive politics and dialogue. His visits to frontline positions across Somalia and support to ongoing reconciliation processes has resulted in consensus-building among local communities in support of the country’s ongoing offensive against Al-Shabaab. Noting that the President’s visit to the region of Middle Shabelle in November 2022 resulted in a cessation of hostilities between two local communities — which have since played a central role in the Government’s removal of Al-Shabaab from the region — he detailed other conflict resolution efforts and commended stakeholders’ support for the Federal Government’s plans to open a new front against Al-Shabaab.
He noted the regular meetings of the National Consultative Council since May 2022, pointing out that the body is now helping to advance Somalia's national priorities, including security and key areas of peacebuilding and state-building. Meanwhile, the 14 bills approved by the Cabinet and sent to Parliament will ultimately help create regional and international confidence and attract foreign investment. As a next step in its imminent admission to the East African Community, Somalia has signalled its intention to become a State party to the African Continental Free Trade Area. Turning again to Al-Shabaab, he said the group is now under immense operational pressure, losing vital terrain and failing to maintain local community support. Recent Al-Shabaab losses of several parts of Hirshabelle and Galmudug states represent strategic and operational gains for the Federal Government. Nonetheless, the group remains able to carry out decisive operations and is seeking to change some of its tactics.
In that regard, he voiced concern about Al-Shabaab’s use of commercial drones and the transnational threat it poses to Somalia’s immediate neighbours. The recent Summit of the Frontline States — including Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, and convened by Somalia — should help enhance the security framework that ATMIS supports. Regarding implementation of Security Council resolutions 2628 (2022) and 2670 (2022), he said ATMIS has submitted a detailed and realistic reconfiguration plan that is under review by the Federal Government. The Mission is currently involved in an ongoing offensive and has provided close air support as well as Casualty Evacuation (CASEVAC) and Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) services for Somali troops from the battlefield, among other support.
Expressing confidence that Somalia is on track to assume security responsibility from ATMIS by December 2024, he said all personnel must be provided with the equipment needed to fight Al-Shabaab, the appropriate firepower and adequate ammunition supplies. That will only be possible when the Security Council takes into account progress already made by Somalia in meeting its sanctions benchmarks as a pathway to lifting the arms embargo. Regarding the initial drawdown of 2,000 ATMIS troops, the Mission has been considering various options based on the direction from the African Union Commission. In the meantime, more detailed planning with the Federal Government is needed. Voicing concern about the shortfall in funding for ATMIS and the Somali security forces, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s call for United Nations assessed contributions to be accessed by the African Union and said the Council’s meeting in March to discuss Somalia’s security transition is a chance to address the Mission’s outstanding funding needs.
Noting the unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Somalia, he said the African Union’s Sub-Committee on Refugees, Returnees and Displaced Persons visited Somalia in December 2022 to assess the humanitarian situation. ATMIS also facilitated the delivery of humanitarian supplies, including through escort and security services to the World Food Programme (WFP). Pledging that ATMIS will remain a reliable partner and a dependable ally, he said the Mission will also continue to require a strong civilian component with a clear sense of purpose. He concluded by underscoring the African Union’s commitment to peace, stability and the development of Somalia and its people, in line with the aspirations of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
SIMA BAHOUS, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said the current projections in Somalia are dire. In the last weeks alone, nearly 200,000 people have been displaced by fighting from the northern city of Laascaanood, also known as Las Anod, with more than 60,000 — mainly women and children — fleeing to neighbouring Ethiopia. An ongoing drought is expected to render half the population food insecure by mid-2023 and place the country at increased risk of famine. Recalling that Somalia’s last declared famine, in 2011, killed a quarter of a million people, she warned that such a dire humanitarian situation also exacerbates gender-based violence.
Citing women’s political participation and leadership as a pre-requisite of more inclusive societies and sustainable development, she lamented that women’s representation in Somali politics has declined, sexual violence has increased and a Sexual Offences Bill still has not been passed by Somalia’s Parliament. Instead, its opponents are pushing for alternative legislation that would legalize child marriage, omit the age of consent, reduce the types of admissible evidence and take away the rights of survivors. Women’s representation fell from 14 to 2 per cent in the 2016 elections and the number of women in both chambers declined from 80 to 67. Moreover, only 13 per cent of current members of the country’s Cabinet are women.
Meanwhile, she cautioned, rates of sexual violence have registered an “alarming increase” since 2020. They continue to rise as the worst draught in many decades is having a devastating impact on all Somalis, with women and girls being disproportionately affected. The non-governmental organization CARE International recently found a 200 per cent increase in gender-based violence among people displaced by the draught compared to the previous year, she said, adding that women take on increased economic burdens, skip meals and are more vulnerable to sexual assault as they travel longer distances to fetch water and firewood. Yet, many of these crimes go unpunished as 80 per cent of sexual and gender-based violence cases do not reach the judiciary, and when they do, they are often met by male judges in a system where less than 1 per cent of judges are women. She also reported on a decrease in the participation of women in the leadership structures of refugee camps.
Highlighting the link between cruel violence against women and girls and ongoing conflict in Somalia — including fighting against the terrorist groups Al-Shabaab and Da'esh — she said the former continues to abduct women and girls, to force families to give them their daughters to marry and to occupy hospitals and maternity wards. Among many Al-Shabaab attacks aimed at disrupting Somalia’s parliamentary elections, the deadliest targeted a bright young woman, Amina Mohamed Abdi, who had won a seat in Parliament and was campaigning again. Almost 50 people died in that 2022 attack. In recent months, Sadia Samatar, the first woman to occupy the position of Deputy Speaker of Parliament, received death threats for speaking up to support legislation that was favourable to women’s rights. Women’s civil society organizations also face threats. However, none of the listings of the Council’s Somalia Sanctions Committee since 2014 mentions sexual violence or women’s rights. Warning against such “gender blind” sanctions, she said the international community must demand women’s meaningful participation and protect space for independent civil society.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) voiced her deep concern over the developments in Las Anod. Alongside its partners, the United Kingdom has supported ceasefire negotiations between the parties; issued statements calling for restraint, dialogue, the protection of civilians and unfettered humanitarian access; and encouraged all Council members to do likewise. Members should encourage and support Somalia’s leadership to translate agreements into tangible outcomes and to lock in incremental progress, she insisted, also calling for women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in order to render those efforts sustainable. For their part, all federal member state leaders must engage constructively. Turning to the entrenched and deteriorating humanitarian crisis, she urged the Council to continue to work together to fund life-saving assistance, lift access restrictions and ensure that aid reaches those who need it most. In addition, she commended recent progress made by Somalia’s security forces in the fight against Al-Shabaab, noting that, while there is indeed cause for optimism in the months ahead, the United Nations must ensure an effective ATMIS benchmark assessment process.
DAI BING (China) called on all parties to the political process to act effectively in the long-term interests of Somalia and its people, resolve disputes through dialogue and negotiation and create the necessary conditions for a transition. The parties to the conflict in Las Anod must cease their fire immediately, he added. Turning to increased counter-terrorism efforts, he pointed out that external countries cannot realize lasting peace and security through their military operations alone. At the end of the day, Somalia must have the improved capacity to shoulder its primary responsibility of fighting terrorism and maintaining security. Noting that ATMIS still plays an irreplaceable role, he urged the Government to continue its engagement with the Mission and major donors to provide sustainable and predictable funding. There should also be increased and timely assistance to Somalia to address the needs of some 8 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, as well as more than 1.3 million who have been displaced. For its part, the Government must do more to reduce bureaucratic restrictions on humanitarian work and improve humanitarian access, he added.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), also speaking on behalf of Gabon and Mozambique, welcomed progress made recently by Somalia’s Federal Government, including efforts to accelerate the pace of negotiations with Somaliland, the strengthening of ties between federal and regional institutions and efforts to ensure political stability. The African Council members support women’s full and effective participation in Somalia’s peacebuilding efforts. “The participation of Somali women at key decision-making levels is vital for good governance and long-term peace within the broader development spectrum,” he said, also applauding the 5 September 2022 launch of an action plan to implement the Somali Women's Charter and Council resolution 1325 (2000). Turning to security issues, he noted that Al-Shabaab — like other terrorist groups active in the Sahel, West and Southern Africa — continues to pose a transnational threat. It is imperative that additional efforts and resources are deployed to counter its ability to conduct operations in Somalia and other parts of the region.
In that vein, he commended the Government of Somalia’s determination to eliminate Al-Shabaab’s footprint and noted the liberation of the port town of Xarardheere — a key financial hub for the group — which was critical to degrade Al-Shabaab’s financial infrastructure. Yet, the group maintains the ability to outwit national security forces and launch lethal attacks against security personnel, civilians and Government officials. He acknowledged the importance of a recent Summit in Mogadishu that drew leaders from Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, noting that its recommendations are critical to completely free Somalia from Al-Shabaab’s influence, enable the drawdown of ATMIS troops and support the gradual transfer of security responsibilities to local actors. That includes making a final push for joint operations in areas still under Al-Shabaab’s control, he said, reaffirming Somalia’s sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) underscored the need to support the ambitious frameworks put forward by Somalia since its elections towards more inclusive political, security, justice and economic reforms. As Al-Shabaab’s methods grow more sophisticated and more lethal, its reach and influence pose an existential threat to Somalia and to international peace and security, she pointed out, stressing that much more needs to be done to assist the Government’s efforts to combat the group and other terrorist entities. That entails strengthening national counter-terrorism capabilities, including by securing areas formerly controlled by Al-Shabaab, and ensuring the inclusive delivery of public services. At the regional level, leaders have demonstrated that they are rising to the challenge, including most recently at the Mogadishu Summit. She called on the Council to step up and support that cooperation, adding that the organ should rethink its counter-terrorism approaches. The current two-track system — which applies the Council's counter-terrorism framework only when addressing those who are listed by the Council as D’aesh or Al-Qaida affiliates — must be re-designed so that Somalia and other countries can more effectively counter terrorism on their own soil, she said.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said thanks to the bravery of Somali security forces and citizens, over 70 per cent of the towns of Hirshabelle and Galmudug have been liberated from Al-Shabaab’s brutal rule. Commending the recent commitment by Somalia and its neighbours to expand operations against Al-Shabaab further into southern Somalia, she called on international partners to help meet the country’s needs. Delivering balanced and timely stabilization to newly liberated territory is imperative to bringing security and relief to the Somali people, she asserted. Moreover, support for security sector reform and a rule of law approach to security and governance will pave the way to lasting peace. In that context, she welcomed progress towards federalism and political reconciliation. She nevertheless sounded alarm over the indiscriminate shelling of civilians, calling for an immediate de-escalation of violence, unimpeded humanitarian access and the peaceful resolution of differences. Turning to funding, she voiced concern over extreme gaps and the outbreak of deadly diseases, warning that the risk of famine will return in April.
ALEXANDRE OLMEDO (France) stressed that strengthened institutions and a finalized constitution must be achieved through an inclusive process that gives women and young people their rightful place. He welcomed the Government’s determination to fight Al-Shabaab while strongly condemning that group’s terrorist attacks, and called for increased stabilization, disarmament and reconciliation efforts. Noting that a consolidated national security architecture can also contribute to building lasting peace, he went on to voice concern over the violence in Las Anod. There is an urgent need to initiate de-escalation, protect civilians and ensure safe and unhindered humanitarian access, as only dialogue can resolve tensions. He then urged the international community to render its assistance to Somalia’s most vulnerable by supporting the United Nations Humanitarian Response Plan. In light of the worsening humanitarian situation, France will continue to tackle food insecurity as it did in December 2022, through support to WFP. Efforts to protect human rights, especially those of women and children, must also continue, he said, voicing concern over increasing sexual and gender-based violence. On Somalia’s security situation, he urged the Government and ATMIS to engage in the transition and deliver on Council resolution 2628 (2022).
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania), welcoming progress on the distribution of power between Somalia’s Federal Government and federal member states, urged the latter’s participation in that process. Reconciliation and dialogue are the only way forward and should include all stakeholders. While noting the Government’s efforts against Al-Shabaab, her delegation is alarmed by the group’s ability to carry out high-impact attacks on civilian and Government targets in urban centres. Military operations should be combined with social and economic measures to meet the needs of the local population. The adoption of the new counter-terrorism strategy is a positive step, she said, adding that Somalia needs the support of the international community. Expressing deep concern over the drought’s impact on women and children, as well as over the recent increase in gender-based and sexual-based violence, she urged the Government to investigate all reported cases of violations and hold perpetrators to account. Meanwhile, the Council must make greater use of targeted sanctions to punish the perpetrators of such crimes.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said that to advance Somalia's national priorities, the participation of female candidates for political offices, as well as elected representatives, must be safeguarded, and individuals protected from threats or reprisals. She encouraged full implementation of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security and the Action Plan for the Implementation of the Somali Women's Charter. The voices of women, as well as those of youth and minority clans, must be heard without hindrance and integrated into decision-making processes and public life. Voicing concern over ongoing human rights violations and abuses, she urged the authorities to continue their efforts to combat and prevent those violations and the Parliament to pass the Sexual Offences Bill of 2018 without delay. She also deplored the continued attacks by Al-Shabaab and other armed groups and called on all actors to respect international law, especially in areas under military operation. As Somalia is on the brink of famine and climate change is clearly a major factor, the humanitarian response must be designed and implemented as such, she said.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), noting progress in the fight against Al-Shabaab, said that for those achievements to have a lasting effect, it is essential to design and implement sound peacebuilding initiatives. With its unique position in the United Nations system, the Peacebuilding Commission could play a bigger role in Somalia, he added. Brazil stands ready to continue its engagement in ATMIS and in the security transition that is taking place across Somali institutions, he said, voicing his hope that the Federal Government and the federal member states continue their recent pattern of holding regular National Consultative Council meetings. Voicing concern about the humanitarian situation, he urged the international community to scale up assistance in an improved and sustained way to prevent famine. As forced displacement has hit Somali women and children the hardest, protection gaps and inequities must be addressed, he stressed, emphasizing that Somali women deserve bolder assistance from the global community.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) pointed out that peace and stability in Somalia is not only essential for a stable and prosperous Horn of Africa but can also contribute to a vibrant maritime economy. To further the aspirations of its people and ensure the successful fulfilment of ATMIS mandates, Somalia needs stronger partnerships and international support, particularly from its neighbours. That country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and unity cannot be achieved with porous borders, he stressed, calling for expanded regional cooperation to prevent the cross-border movement of terrorists, illegal weapons and ammunition. Institution and capacity-building across all sectors are also vital, especially for holding onto newly liberated areas. By garnering the trust and confidence of people on the ground, local institutions and security forces can create conditions where ATMIS is no longer needed. In the meantime, unabated clashes and violence continue to displace large numbers of women and children, adding to an already acute humanitarian situation. The global community should further integrate its assistance into the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, he said.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) encouraged all participants in the political process to work together, create a sustainable federal structure and ensure Somalia’s territorial integrity and unity. The Russian Federation supports all efforts to stabilize the country’s political situation, including the signing of an agreement by the Federal Government and federal member states on power allocation. However, Moscow remains seriously concerned over Somalia’s security situation. The Al-Shabaab extremist group continues to attack Government facilities, military units, civilians and personnel from international organizations, and it fired at a helicopter belonging to Utair Helicopter Services — a Russian Federation joint-stock company which provides air transport support for UNSOM — on 23 January. Although the Somali national army had successfully conducted a series of operations which liberated several areas from that group, a serious confrontation nevertheless broke out in the disputed area of Sool between Somaliland and Puntland. Against that backdrop, ATMIS plays a key role in fighting terrorism, ensuring domestic security and strengthening statehood. Voicing his country’s positive assessment of UNSOM and UNSOS, he said Somalia must be able to fully resume its responsibility for security throughout the country when ATMIS concludes its work.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador), voicing his hope that progress will continue on Somalia’s electoral plans, pointed out that inclusive democracy is key for overcoming conflicts, building institutions and implementing policies on economic well-being, social development and security. In that regard, Somalia should consolidate its strategies on women’s political and social inclusion to ensure their greater and more equitable participation in legislative and Government institutions. Turning to the security situation, he condemned Al-Shabaab’s heinous attacks and stressed that the group must be held accountable for its human rights abuses, violations and use of violence. Neighbouring States should also continue their joint efforts, he said, highlighting the need to implement the 2018 Sexual Offences Bill, which incorporates policies on women’s and girls’ protection and sexual violence prevention. On the humanitarian situation, he condemned attacks and threats against humanitarian personnel, denounced the looting and destruction of humanitarian goods and urged the global community to render its support to Somalia and to UNSOM.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), Council President for February, spoke in her national capacity, registering her deep disappointment that current conditions did not allow for the safe participation of a Somali civil society briefer at today’s Council meeting. “We remain firm in our belief that the voice of civil society needs to be heard […] without fear of reprisals, harassment or abuse,” she said. For that reason, she will circulate to all those present a statement that would have been delivered by a representative of the Somali Gender Equity Movement, a non-partisan group comprising 9,000 diverse Somali women both inside the country and in the global diaspora. Welcoming recent agreements on the allocation of powers and the establishment of technical committees to review and prepare recommendations on issues of national security and universal suffrage in elections, she underlined the importance of inclusive, free and fair elections as well as a civic space representing all stakeholders. The full, equal and meaningful participation of women is the backbone of any society, she added, welcoming the launch of the Somali Women’s Charter and the National Action Plan and urging their full implementation.
ABUKAR DAHIR OSMAN (Somalia), also addressing the Council, said since the last reporting period, his country’s Federal Government has updated and finalized the national security architecture, which paves the way for the Government to address division of powers with the federal member states and the Somali Security Forces. Thus far, political consultations with the federal member states have been concluded successfully and the Government is currently in the final stages of drafting and enacting key legislative pieces and strategies. The National Armed Forces have intensified their offensive operations against Al-Khawarij — another name for the group known internationally as Al-Shabaab — in the states of Galmudug and Hirshabelle. Despite constrained resources due to the longstanding arms embargo on Somalia, Somali Security Forces began to conduct clearance and target operations in Southwest State and Jubaland State.
Spotlighting the mobilization of community-led self-defence groups and their support in the Government-led offensive against Al-Shabaab across Somalia, he said those groups have played an integral part in consolidating the early gains made in the offensive against the terrorist faction. The Government is committed to assuming security responsibility from ATMIS on the agreed timelines. Though the implementation of the Somalia Transition Plan is a resource-intensive exercise, he noted that the Federal Government has successfully achieved 90 per cent of the objectives outlined in its previous report, which was submitted to the Council in October 2022. In that context, he called for the lifting of the longstanding arms embargo on Somalia. Turning to the humanitarian situation, he said Somalia averted a looming famine in 2022 and underscored the critical nexus between humanitarian assistance and support for Somalia’s long-term systemic transformation efforts. In addition, he condemned violence against the people of Las Anod, which has caused immeasurable human suffering, loss of life and large civilian displacement, and stressed the need to hold perpetrators accountable.