African Union Official Cites Recent Attacks to Stress Continuing Al-Shabaab Threat
While security remained a paramount concern in Somalia, politics was increasingly displacing violence as a means of resolving differences, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today, pressing it to provide a “powerful” basis for the United Nations and its African Union partners to contribute decisively to the country’s future.
Michael Keating, who is also heads the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), said his first two weeks in office had been characterized by tough political negotiations and two terrorist attacks. Describing Somalia as a country of enormous potential, determined people and entrepreneurial spirit, he declared: “Somalis know their potential and they will not be deterred from realizing it.” He also stressed that Kenya would not be deterred by the attack against its soldiers in El Ade, nor Somalis cowed by Al-Shabaab’s atrocities in Mogadishu.
Joining Mr. Keating in briefing the Council was Francisco Caetano José Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and Head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). They were both providing updates via video link from Addis Ababa for the first time since taking office.
Mr. Keating emphasized that in a critical year of transformation, steady progress would require Somali leadership and support from the Council. It would depend on managing the Al-Shabaab threat and seizing opportunities offered by political progress. In that context, he announced that a decision had been reached this morning on an electoral model for parliamentary elections to be held in 2016, culminating nearly six months of intense consultations and possibly marking a watershed moment in the growing political maturity of a federal Somalia. Reaching a decision had not been easy, he said, adding that it had been the result of repeated consultations among Somali leaders in Kismaayo and Mogadishu following prolonged deadlock.
He said the plan envisaged a Lower House of 275 members, based on maintaining the 4.5 intra-clan power-sharing formula, and an Upper House of 54 members, based on equal representation of existing, emerging and prospective federal states and the allocation of additional seats to the pre-existing entities of “Puntland” and “Somaliland”. Indeed, the plan was Somali-devised, Somali-led and Somali-owned, he added.
Commending as “exemplary”, the Unity among international partners leading up to that decision, he urged the Council to support its implementation because the journey ahead would be long and bumpy, especially in terms of implementation and agreement on a political road map for the 2016-2020 period, leading to universal elections by 2020. Real momentum should result from the breakthrough, he said, welcoming the 12 January launch of the State-formation process in Hiraan and Middle Shabelle. Progress had also been made on the review of the Provisional Federal Constitution.
Turning to the “challenging” security environment, he advocated a “full-spectrum” approach that would advance political, security, development and human rights efforts. Military and counterterrorism efforts must be accompanied by stronger policing and rule-of-law initiatives focused on strengthening federal and regional capabilities as a basis for AMISOM’s longer-term transition plan. Priority should also be accorded to enhancing institutions, creating jobs and reducing dependence on aid, he emphasized. Encouraged by the President’s commitment to security sector reform, he said the creation of an urgently required national security policy must be complemented by police, justice and corrections models in the context of federalism.
On Somalia’s humanitarian crisis, the causes of which remained unresolved, he said 4.9 million people, or 40 per cent of the population, required aid. More than 1.1 million people were internally displaced and 300,000 children under the age of five were acutely malnourished. Urging support for the Somalia humanitarian country team’s $885 million response plan, he said “all our efforts will be conditional upon getting the policies right”.
Describing the National Consultative Forum held in November 2015 as a “decisive” step towards democracy, as well as transparent and inclusive consultations on an electoral model for 2016, he said the 16 December 2015 Mogadishu Declaration outlined term limits, the quality of the electoral process and the representation of women and youth. A senior leadership coordination forum would be held among UNSOM, AMISOM and the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) to discuss strategic and operational priorities. He added that, in the coming months, he would work with Somali leaders, civil society and the international community to support a comprehensive approach embracing political, security, development and human rights priorities.
Following those remarks, Mr. Madeira said the attack on El Ade and Lido beach two weeks ago highlighted the continuing threat posed by Al-Shabaab. AMISOM and Somali National Army operations in the Juba Corridor, launched against the group in July 2015, were now in their third phase and expected to wind down in March 2016. The goal was to degrade its capabilities in its remaining strongholds, paving the way for a political process, he said, noting that Al-Shabaab was trying to exploit AMISOM’s overstretched capacities by launching both asymmetrical and direct attacks, a tactical change accompanying its increasing turn to guerrilla warfare and use of improvised explosive devices. The security situation was volatile, despite territorial gains made, he added.
On the political front, he said he was encouraged by progress on state formation, constitutional revision and preparations for elections later in 2016. Calling upon the Council to support the electoral model, he said it was based on a balance between clan and constituency and offered a “hopeful” outlook for an inclusive electoral process. For its part, the African Union was committed to supporting peace and stability, he said, requesting that the Council consider strengthening its partnership with the regional body.
He went on to underline the central importance of the Somali National Army to joint operations, especially in relation to taking over security operations in recovered areas. The only viable process to realize AMISOM’s mandate and subsequent exit strategy was by ensuring the existence of an inclusive national army, he said, urging the Council to ensure that pledges made towards the “Gulwaade” plan were fulfilled. Better coordination among AMISOM, UNSOS and UNSOM was vital, he said, adding that he hoped to see a strengthening of the joint senior leadership decision-making framework.
The provision of additional enablers was central to AMISOM’s operations, he continued, urging the Council to request that the Secretary-General hold expedited negotiations that would accommodate the unique nature of AMISOM’s offensive mandate. The deployment of assets, including pledged helicopters, was critical to dislodging Al-Shabaab, he said. In that context, the African Union would hold a summit for troop-contributing countries with the aim of gaining a political commitment on command-and-control issues, the provision of additional enablers and enhanced coordination.
He concluded by saying grave concern had been expressed over the European Union’s decision to cut allowances for uniformed personnel by 20 per cent in January 2016. The African Union was doing its utmost to fill that gap and had appointed a High Representative to the peace fund with the responsibility of mobilizing additional resources. Those efforts, among others, were being taken in the context of an economic downturn brought on by the drop in commodity prices, he noted. As such, the Council should consider other means to support AMISOM, including by individual members.
The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 10:50 a.m.