Press Conference by Secretary-General's Special Representative Following His Briefing to Security Council on Situation in Somalia

29 July 2009

Press Conference by Secretary-General's Special Representative Following His Briefing to Security Council on Situation in Somalia

29 July 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

press conference by Secretary-General’s special representative following

his briefing to Security Council on situation in somalia


Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon that the Security Council was in closed-door meetings to discuss possible new sanctions against leaders of armed groups in Somalia, and perhaps Eritrea, and that tackling impunity was the next major concern in Somalia.

For over two decades, insurgents had hijacked the peace process, maiming and killing people with impunity, he said, adding, however, that since the Transitional Federal Government and its international partners had acted to tamp down the insurgents, a new question had arisen:  “What to do with them?”  The aggressors were not accepted by the majority of the population.

The Special Representative, who this morning presented an update to the Council on the situation in Somalia, said that the Djibouti Peace Agreement ‑‑ between Somalia’s Transitional National Government and a major opposition group in 2008 ‑‑ contained provisions for addressing impunity, a subject that had been brought up at a meeting organized by the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) in November 2008, involving experts and members of both Somali and international civil society.  (See Press Release SC/9719)  A second meeting would soon take place on how to address impunity and through which channels, whether the Security Council, the International Criminal Court or otherwise.

He said that, compared with his last visit to the Security Council six months ago, he had sensed a “serious change” in attitude towards the Somali conflict, coloured by a new perspective within the international community that instability in that country posed a serious terrorist risk.  Countries around the world were also more likely to view the situation as one of a Government under armed aggression, in contrast to the long-standing notion that the conflict was a domestic squabble in which Somalis fought each other.

Asked whether the Somalia sanctions list would include Al Shabaab, one of Somalia’s main insurgent groups, he said the group was already on the United States terrorist list, and he had heard no mention of placing it on a similar Security Council one.  However, a resolution passed in November 2008 had the 15-member body tracking “individuals and entities that engage in activities that threaten the peace and the political processes and obstruct humanitarian assistance”.

The Special Representative went on to state that he had strong reason to believe that foreign fighters were inside Somalia, and that they were better organized and more disciplined than Somalis on either side.  Citing the concept of the responsibility to protect, he said the people of Somalia increasingly viewed their country as having been taken hostage and most of them longed once more for “a safe night”.

Describing the deteriorating situation, he said armed insurgents were now engaging in new strategies such as targeted assassination in which not all the killings were centred in Mogadishu.  That new development added to the difficulties faced by the Government, which was struggling to organize itself against the insurgency.  The situation was balanced, on the positive side by the flow of resources from countries of the Organization of Islamic Conference, the League of Arab States, the European Union and the United States, which went towards training, equipping and paying Government troops.

Asked about the idea of establishing a “green zone” in Somalia, similar to the one in Iraq, he had no comment on the location or dimensions of such a zone or the nature of protection it would afford its residents.

He said that, in his fourth briefing to the Security Council earlier, he had told the 15-member body that it should not make excuses for inaction.  “If the Council doesn’t act, who will act?   Somalia is a threat to itself, the region and international peace.”

But he added that he had reason to believe Council members had become more amenable to the idea of a United Nations presence closer to the victims of the humanitarian crisis, many of whom had suffered human rights abuse and famine as a result of the conflict.  He had long advocated the idea, though the United Nations had tended to be skittish, citing security concerns.

He said that, when addressing the Security Council, he had made sure to call for more support for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which was operating at less than full capacity, lacking equipment and logistical backing.

Challenging journalists to address the financing of Somali crimes, such as piracy, he said Somalia was a free trade zone, and thus a bustling import-and-export hub for the whole subregion.  Piracy was a business which at times functioned as a “hedge fund” for elites in the country, he added.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.