|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6467th Meeting (AM)
Head of United Nations Office Hails Appointment of Somalia’s ‘Lean’ New Cabinet,
Calls for Aid to Consolidate Gains as Transition Period Nears End
Briefing Security Council, New Prime Minister
Outlines His Government’s Achievements, Challenges in First 50 Days
Praising the appointment of Somalia’s new Cabinet in the Security Council today, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the strife-torn country called for international support to help its Transitional Federal Government consolidate the gains of the Djibouti Peace Agreement as the end of the transition period approached.
“The gains of the Djibouti agreement, modest as they may be, remain the basis for advancing the peace process and must be consolidated,” said Augustine Mahiga in a briefing to the Council as he presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on Somalia. Accompanying him at the briefing was Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, the Transitional Federal Government’s newly-appointed Prime Minister.
Describing the new Cabinet as “lean, technocratic in profile, with distinguished professional qualifications and experience among its members”, Mr. Mahiga said that in the last months of the transition period called for in the Djibouti agreement, it was determined to implement the road map emphasizing good governance, institution-building and the provision of basic services in order to ensure the Transitional Federal Government’s legitimacy. Parliament had approved its first-ever budget and each of the 18 ministries had prepared a plan of action for the first 100 days.
However, the constitutional process, reconciliation and security remained major concerns, the Special Representative cautioned, recalling that in discussions last week, President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed had expressed concerns to him that the constitution-making process, which had reached the public consultation phase, might not be inclusive enough due to access and security limitations, especially in south-central Somalia. The President was also keen to ensure that Somaliland, Puntland, other stable areas and the diaspora participated in the process.
He said that an agreement involving all stakeholders and facilitated by UNPOS [United Nations Political Office for Somalia] had affirmed that the High-Level Committee provided for in the Djibouti agreement would essentially be a vehicle for Somali-Somali dialogue aimed at developing a consensus on important issues such as the constitution, with the participation, as appropriate, of some of the agreement’s guarantors. In the coming weeks, UNPOS would more proactively support the Transitional Federal Government as well as groups and entities that were open to a constructive dialogue and peace, he added.
In the meantime, he emphasized, stabilizing the security situation was the key to opening the way for the Government to expand the political space, allow participation in the peace process and ensure the delivery of basic services. The recent upsurge of violence in the struggle to gain control of new territories and regain areas under Government control was a matter of concern, he said, adding that the Government sought international assistance in the provision of services. The expeditious implementation of Security Council resolution 1964 (2010), which authorized an additional 4,000 troops for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), was essential in that light, he noted.
Correspondingly, the United Nations was increasing its efforts to develop coherent support to Somali institutions, notably by establishing a light presence in some parts of the country, he said. Recent months had seen regular interaction among UNPOS, the United Nations country team and the United Nations Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA) aimed at ensuring greater coordination. Moving forward, it was essential to review and improve terms of service for United Nations personnel in Somalia in order to attract staff to serve in such a dangerous and challenging environment, he stressed, requesting the Council members’ support in that regard.
He went on to say that UNSOA was working closely with AMISOM to ensure that the logistics package for the additional troops was made available once deployment began. However, critical gaps remained in the support package, he said, pointing out, in particular, that reimbursement for contingent-owned equipment and self-sustainment costs were not covered. In addition, AMISOM faced significant equipment shortfalls and expenses in mobilizing critical specialized enabling units. While commending Member States on the bilateral support they had provided to troop-contributing countries so far, he appealed for more assistance in those areas.
Mr. Mahiga welcomed AMISOM’s increased awareness of the need to protect civilians in conflict areas and its acceptance of the responsibility to investigate civilian casualties caused by its own troops. On the training needs of Government forces, however, the lack of a command structure continued, he said, noting the offer by two countries in the region to train both commissioned and non-commissioned officers. Appealing for support for those offers, he also thanked all contributors, whether bilateral or through the Trust Fund, who had supported the Somali security institutions. In addition, the rehabilitation of growing numbers of defecting insurgents required immediate attention, he stressed, encouraging the Transitional Federal Government to receive them.
Reporting on the humanitarian response to the onset of a severe drought that had already affected some 2 million people, he warned that the World Food Programme (WFP) food pipeline would be depleted in three months’ time and the agency faced a $40 million funding shortfall.
Finally, Mr. Mahiga recounted his discussions with Jack Lang, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Legal Issues related to Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. UNPOS had established a task force on the issue but needed additional capacity so it could play a meaningful role in counter-piracy as it sought to pursue a comprehensive approach entailing deterrence, prosecution and addressing root causes. The Office intended to begin by reactivating the Kampala Framework of cooperation between the Transitional Federal Government, Puntland and Somaliland, he added.
Taking the floor, Prime Minister Mohamed affirmed that, in its first 50 days, his Government had focused on reconciliation, governance, the constitution-making process and humanitarian matters. Security, crucial to all those areas, was improving, with much more of Mogadishu and its population under Government control and Al-Shabaab fighters surrendering in increasing numbers. The additional troops mandated for AMISOM would have a dramatic influence, he said. The training of the first cadre of Government troops had been completed, he added, noting, however, that more must be done to prevent civilian casualties and control indirect fire.
The Prime Minister said that the approval of 15 additional members of the Independent Constitutional Commission would help expedite constitution-making efforts. Many experts had already been asked to review the draft accomplished so far, but it was essential to take the time needed to follow the process properly without having to respond to external pressures. The Government would reach out to all communities in that process and for other purposes, he pledged.
Outlining steps taken to increase transparency and ethics in Government, he said ministerial travel could only take place with the Prime Minister’s consent and vehicles and properties were tracked. The payment of civil servants’ salaries was also a priority for the new Government. He went on to note that the Port of Mogadishu had taken in $2 million, the highest monthly figure for the decade. “In 50 days we have done more than had been done previously,” he added.
However, drought threatened to cause widespread starvation, he said, adding that the Government had become active in delivering aid, and had appealed for assistance from the international community and Somalis in the diaspora. He also appealed for assistance for reintegrating ex-combatants. “We need support and we need it now,” the Prime Minister stressed, pledging to head a legitimate and effective Government that would be a good partner for the international community and lead Somalia out of its darkest days.
The meeting began at 10:16 a.m. and ended at 10:47 a.m.
Council members had before them the Report of the Secretary-General on Somalia (document S/2010/675), in which he provides an update on developments since 9 September, including the appointment of Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed as the new Prime Minister and the appointment of a new Cabinet. He urges the country’s Transitional Federal Institutions to focus now on completing the constitution-drafting process in an inclusive manner and meeting the targets of the political transition schedule to end in August 2011.
The Secretary-General also calls on the international community to provide urgent military and other support to the country’s Transitional Federal Government, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union in their efforts to address the situation in the country. “Foreign fighters and other spoilers who benefit from the anarchy in Somalia continue to pose a serious threat to peace and stability in the country,” he says, calling on Member States to continue to cooperate with the United Nations, IGAD and other regional organizations in implementing resolution 1907 (2009), which imposed sanctions on those who undermine peace efforts.
“Security remains the single most critical challenge confronting the Transitional Federal Institutions,” the Secretary-General writes. “The presence of foreign extremist fighters is a constant reminder of the high risk that the Horn of Africa is rapidly becoming the next front in the global effort against international terrorism.” Welcoming the Council’s 22 December decision to approve an increase in the troop level of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) from 8,000 to 12,000, he urges it to consider upgrading the Mission’s support package to match the standards of support provided to United Nations peacekeeping operations.
The Secretary-General acknowledges the African Union’s call for the Security Council to reaffirm its commitment to transforming AMISOM into a United Nations peacekeeping operation within a fixed timeline, but says the situation is not yet ripe for such timelines. Key partners in efforts to restore peace and stability in Somalia should jointly conduct regular assessments on the ground to determine progress towards attaining security and other benchmarks “for an incremental approach” to the possible transition from AMISOM to a United Nations mission. Because of the security situation, the world body does not maintain a full presence in the country, and the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) is based in Nairobi, capital of neighbouring Kenya.
However, the report states, the United Nations continues to expand its footprint in Mogadishu, with 61 missions conducted recently by international staff from UNPOS, United Nations Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA), United Nations Mine Action Service, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
On the political situation in Somalia, which has not had a functioning central government since 1991, the report welcomes the appointment of the new Prime Minister and Cabinet. Noting the inclusion of the former opposition group Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a in the peace process and Cabinet, it urges greater efforts to convince other opposition groups to lay down their arms and work for peace.
Turning to the humanitarian situation, the report says Somalia has enjoyed “a marked but fragile improvement” due to two good rainy seasons with exceptionally high harvests. However, this is threatened by dry weather and an upsurge in conflict which started concurrently in August and continued to intensify until the end of 2010. The number of civilians displaced and wounded in the conflict has increased, with more than 44,000 people displaced during the third quarter of the year and an additional 65,000 in the last quarter. Of the 54,000 people displaced from Mogadishu between August and November, 32,000 fled the capital and 22,000 relocated to relatively calmer areas of the city.
According to the report, clashes between Al-Shabaab, the main armed opposition group, and pro-Government forces in late October displaced thousands of people, many of whom crossed into Kenya. The Secretary-General calls on all parties to ensure the protection of civilians, condemning the extremists’ launching of attacks from populated areas. He also calls on all parties to allow the delivery of assistance, and on the donor community to continue its critical support.
* *** *For information media • not an official record