Despite Gains on Electoral Front, Somalia’s Fragile Security Landscape Threatens to Undermine Hard-Won Progress, Top Official Tells Security Council

19 April 2016
7674th Meeting (AM)

Despite Gains on Electoral Front, Somalia’s Fragile Security Landscape Threatens to Undermine Hard-Won Progress, Top Official Tells Security Council

While Somalia was making progress on its long road back to peace and stability, with preparations well afoot for elections in August and a constitutional review, Al-Shabaab remained a potent threat that risked undercutting hard-earned gains, the senior United Nations official in that country told the Security Council today.

Michael Keating, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), briefed the Council, providing a snapshot of recent developments.  Stressing that progress was not irreversible, he pointed to last week’s agreement on an election model that included a choice of candidates in polls throughout Somalia and the setting aside of 30 per cent of seats in both houses of Parliament for women.  That breakthrough had given momentum to review a provisional Federal Constitution that would guarantee Somalia’s longer-term stability and democracy.

Turning to looming threats, he said Al-Shabaab, which was carrying out repeated asymmetric and conventional attacks, would try to disrupt an election process that threatened its agenda, he said, paying tribute to the bravery of members of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Reporting progress in economic management, Mr. Keating said security and prosperity depended on reversing Somalia’s dependency on aid and countering the root causes of conflict and violent extremism through investment in jobs, education, the rule of law, respect for human rights and capable security and counter-terrorism forces.  It would also mean tackling immediate concerns such as drought in Somaliland and Puntland, which was liable to generate food insecurity while strengthening the hand of violent extremists.  On the humanitarian front, he expressed concern over the drought threatening food security in those drought-stricken areas.

Also addressing the Council about pressing concerns, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, President of Somalia, appealed for continued international support and a lifting of the current sanctions.

“Somalia has turned a corner and there is absolutely no turning back to the dark past,” said Mr. Mohamud, who expressed frustration that the security environment was inhibiting the development of governing institutions and remained a root cause of the humanitarian situation.

Vowing to defeat Al-Shabaab, he asked the Council to lift the United Nations arms embargo on Somalia, saying it would help speed up the development of national security forces while enhancing Somalia’s ability to defeat terrorism, protect its people and safeguard its future.

The Council also heard from Téte António, Permanent Observer for the African Union.  He described the security situation as fluid, despite gains made by AMISOM forces against Al-Shabaab.  Given the current situation, he said there was clear justification for the Council to renew the AMISOM mandate, he said, as the Mission refocused its strategy to embrace more targeted operations against Al-Shabaab.

Discussing the situation in Somalia, the United Kingdom’s representative called 2016 a crucial year.  “The electoral process needs to be transparent, deliver on time and be inclusive,” he said, calling for more pledges of support for security-sector reform.   His counterpart from Egypt expected the August elections to lead to stability and democracy, so long as they took place within the determined time frame, with adequate funding and a full participation of women and youth.

Ukraine’s delegate, expressing deep concern over Al-Shabaab’s recruitment of children from schools and mosques, said AMISOM needed strong child protection elements.  Senegal’s representative noted increased interest among transnational corporations in Somalia’s mining resources, while his counterpart from Venezuela spoke in favour of lifting the arms embargo.  Representatives of the United States and Malaysia highlighted parallel concerns, with both pointing out the way El Niño had aggravated the humanitarian situation.

Representatives of the Russian Federation, Uruguay, Spain, Japan, New Zealand, France, Angola and China also delivered statements.

The meeting began at 10:50 a.m. and ended at 12:46 p.m.


MICHAEL KEATING, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), said progress was being made, but emphasized that it was not irreversible.  Last week, Somali leaders had agreed on an electoral model that envisioned a choice of candidates, voting in each of the capitals or seats of government for existing and emerging Federal member states, with 30 per cent of parliamentary seats reserved for women.  He called for the Federal Parliament to expeditiously endorse that model, which would mark a midway point between the 2012 elections, when only 135 electors selected 275 members of Parliament, and 2020, when all Somalis would have a say.  The breakthrough on the electoral process had generated momentum on a technical review of the provisional Federal Constitution, which would be the strongest guarantee of Somalia’s long-term stability and democracy, he said.

Progress, however, was taking place amid great insecurity, he said.  Too many civilians and soldiers were dying and Al-Shabaab remained a potent threat, carrying out repeated asymmetric and conventional attacks.  The terrorist group would try to disrupt an electoral process that threatened its agenda, he said, paying tribute to the bravery of AMISOM troops.  He applauded the President’s commitment to strengthening Somali security capabilities and shared his concern about inconsistent salary payments to personnel, saying timely and regular pay was the way forward.

Turning to the economy, he said stronger state and business relationships could yield enormous benefits that would create job prospects for young Somalis.  The country was making progress in economic management, including an anti-money-laundering bill that had been signed into law in February and the filling of empty seats on the Central Bank board.  Yet, much remained to be done, he said, highlighting that progress was going in the right direction.  A staff-monitored programme that the International Monetary Fund had announced last week would help Somalia with debt relief and eventually make the country eligible for concessional lending from international financial institutions.

Security and prosperity, he went on to say, now depended on reversing Somalia’s dependency on aid and addressing the root causes of fragility, conflict and violent extremism.  To address those issues, he called for a comprehensive political strategy requiring investments in jobs, education, the rule of law, respect for human rights and capable security and counter-terrorism forces.  Such a formidable agenda would also require commitment from Somalia’s political and traditional leaders, support from neighbours and partners, and strategies to address short-term realities, including drought in Somaliland and Puntland, which in addition to acute food insecurity could strengthen Islamist jihadists while increasing displacement and migrant flows.  Somali authorities had set up national and regional drought committees to raise funds and coordinate the response, but that was not enough, with humanitarian organizations receiving only $145 million out of $885 million in the consolidated appeal for 2016.  Ensuring progress in Somalia depended on the unity of the Security Council and the coherence of the broader international community, including the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the European Union and bilateral partners, he concluded.

TÉTE ANTÓNIO, Permanent Observer for the African Union, supported the holding of elections in August based on the electoral model agreed in early April by Somali leaders.  While still not the desired one-person-one-vote model, the introduction of electoral colleges was laudable as they would be significantly larger than the group of elders that had chosen central Government and parliamentary leaders in 2012.  The African Union was ready to support the new endeavour, he said, noting that other electoral organs must be nominated and the technical committee must complete the election implementation plan, which must be ratified by Parliament.  Further, the Government should conclude the process of joining Hiraan and Middle Shabelle regions into one state, Shabelle, a move that would bring the Government closer to the people and provide essential services and infrastructure.

Turning to the ongoing Mission, AMISOM forces had made significant gains, ousting Al-Shabaab from Mogadishu and liberating a large number of district capitals and swathes of territory from the terrorist group’s control, he said.  Still, the security situation remained fluid and Al-Shabaab had shown resilience and the ability to adapt, gather intelligence and deploy small, but highly mobile and effective, teams of fighters to attack and impede the movement of goods and people while delaying AMISOM activities in the main supply routes.

Considering those challenges, the African Union had taken steps to enhance the Mission’s operational efficiency, he said.  In February, it had hosted a summit at which Heads of State and troop- and police-contributing countries had addressed immediate challenges related to resources, command and control and support to the Somali National Army, making far-reaching commitments and signing the Djibouti Declaration on AMISOM.  The African Union and the United Nations had held a working group 15 April to discuss concrete options to enhance the Mission’s command and control, including establishing a multinational sector headquarters across AMISOM areas of operation and bolstering its force capacity.  Formal technical recommendations would be forthcoming, he said.

Improved effectiveness would be needed, he continued, to enable AMISOM to meet its priorities from July to December to conduct defensive, offensive and routine operations in areas of its responsibility in Somalia.  There was a clear justification for renewing the Mission’s mandate in light of the progress made in creating an environment conducive to the political process and considering continued security challenges.  The African Union Peace and Security Council would consider the situation in Somalia during a 28 April meeting in Addis Ababa with a view to recommending that the United Nations Security Council authorize a mandate extension.

The Mission’s strategy must be adapted to cope with ongoing security challenges, he went on to say.  It must embrace more targeted operations involving holding offensive and pursuit operations to complement offensive, more intelligence-driven operations aimed at recovering territories from Al-Shabaab.  The African Union Commission had directed the AMISOM leadership to begin planning that new strategy and it would welcome the Council’s support for execution.  It was also important to mobilize resources to ensure the Somali National Security Forces were paid regularly and to fill the gap created by the 20 per cent pay cut imposed on AMISOM uniformed personnel in order to raise staff morale and motivation.

He said the deployment of operational enablers and force multipliers was pivotal to rejuvenate AMISOM operations.  Pledges of helicopters by Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda would ensure targeted operations, greater flexibility and protection.  In that regard, he urged the Council to facilitate the finalization of letters of assist, bearing in mind that reimbursements for helicopters should be commensurate with the offensive nature of AMISOM operations.

HASSAN SHEIKH MOHAMUD, President of Somalia, said the pain, misery and misfortune of illegal migration would only end when source countries enjoyed peace, stability and inclusive economic development.  “Somalia has lived a lifetime in the last four years,” he said, recalling that the forthcoming election would be uniform across the country, with a dispute resolution process and 30 per cent of seats reserved for women.  Somalia was also working hard at completing the state formation process in Hiraan and Middle Shabelle while clarifying the status of Benadir.  Although 80 per cent of the country had been liberated from Al-Shabaab, it was frustrating that the security environment was inhibiting the development of governing institutions and remained a root cause of the humanitarian situation.  Commending the efforts of the Somali National Army and AMISOM in the fight against Al-Shabaab, he said:  “The fight is not yet over.”  “We will not quit before it is successfully completed.”

He asked the Council to lift the United Nations arms embargo, saying it would make the fastest and greatest impact on the development of Somalia’s security forces and the ability to defeat terrorism, protect its people and safeguard its future against violent and radicalized elements.  The embargo had been put into place for good reasons, but given the dramatic change in Somalia, it was outdated and restrictive at best and misleading and undermining at worst.  He also requested a review of the mandate of the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group, with an outcome that would reflect how Somalia was no longer at war with itself, but fighting alongside other Member States to make the world a safer place.

Turning to national progress in public finance management reform, he noted that gains included a working Central Bank and Independent Office of the Auditor General and an agreement with the International Monetary Fund on a reform programme for the May 2016-April 2017, following an economic growth rate of 3.7 per cent in 2015.  He stressed the need for the international community to expand support for high-priority economic sectors and youth employment, and noted how the Somali Compact, now in its final year, had helped to improve partnership and mutual accountability between the Government and the international community.  Work now was under way on a three-year national development plan to ensure that the holistic approach forged through the Somali Compact was not lost.  He urged Somalia’s partners to invest, saying that with its wealth, it was truly a place of great profitable opportunities.  “Somalia has turned a corner and there is absolutely no turning back to the dark past,” he stated.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said that since the 2012 London Conference on Somalia, his Government had reopened an embassy in Mogadishu, increased development aid and deployed personnel to the United Nations Mission.  Such commitment was as vital as ever before because 2016 marked a crucial year for Somalia’s stability and prosperity.  “The electoral process needs to be transparent, deliver on time and be inclusive,” he said.  “There can be no place at the table for any group or individual that seeks to undermine this process.”  Welcoming the decision on an election implementation plan, he said the United Nations was ready to help Somalia reach the goal of one-person-one-vote in 2020.  Commending the decision to reserve 30 per cent of parliamentary seats for women, he said “this is not a women’s issue, it’s a peace issue”.  Welcoming high-level partnership commitments on security-sector reform, he said more pledges were needed.  Security-sector reform and the development of the Somali National Army and police force must be transparent and fully coordinated with donors, he said, adding that the United Kingdom stood ready to assist and that it was already deploying military personnel to UNSOM.

OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK (Egypt) expected that the August elections would lead to stability and democracy.  He welcomed efforts by all Somalis, particularly leaders of federal regions, through the National Leadership Forum that had been held in early April.  The electoral process must be completed within the determined time frame, with a large participation of women and youth.  Adequate funding was needed to secure the electoral process, he said.  Calling on Member States to support the Government’s efforts to retrain and rehabilitate the Somali National Army, he said it must be armed appropriately to carry out the necessary military operations against Al-Shabaab.  Gains thus far must be protected by practical steps, he continued, adding that Egypt was providing technical aid to the Somali Parliament.  Contracts were needed to help protect Somalia’s national resources and Arab nations should coordinate humanitarian and medical efforts to aid the Somali people.  He welcomed the Secretary-General’s joint efforts with the Bretton Woods institutions to support economic growth and reduce poverty.

DAVID PRESSMAN (United States) said that as the people of Somalia were fighting for the future of their country, they needed help in building strong institutions, taking the fight to Al-Shabaab and assisting those in need.  The electoral model was an important step forward that in August would lead to a further step towards a universal, one-person-one-vote election in 2020.  While security had improved considerably, the United States would continue to use its financial, diplomatic, intelligence and military tools to help dismantle Al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups.  What came after the liberation of Al-Shabaab areas would have a direct connection on how the international community fought terrorism, he said, adding that sustainable security advances hinged on respecting human rights.  The chronic humanitarian crisis demanded attention as the situation had worsened with El Niño, he said.  Despite truly important gains, there remained a long path to ensuring that stability took root and peace prevailed in Somalia for all Somalis.

PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation), sharing the views of the President of Somalia, noted the approval of the electoral model.  The security situation, however, was worrying, with a spike in Al-Shabaab activities and changes in its tactics, including carrying out attacks to generate broad international attention.  In that connection, it was necessary to keep putting military pressure on Somali extremists.  State-building and federalization was a primary task for the Somali Government to ensure that remaining antagonisms did not affect the election process.  Referring to the ongoing drought in Somaliland and Puntland, he called for international humanitarian assistance to ensure that people had drinking water, food and medication.  The Russian Federation was providing such assistance on a regular basis, he said, agreeing on the need to bolster international donations while supporting the Federal Government through the effective implementation of resolution 2275 (2016).

LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay) stressed the importance of the Government of Somalia’s pledge to not extend the limits of constitutional mandates and to hold elections in August, conclude the constitutional reform process and fulfil federal projects.  A peaceful and transparent political process was crucial for the country’s continued progress towards democracy.  He welcomed the decision to earmark 30 per cent of parliamentary seats for women.  Despite such gains, the continuing threat of Al-Shabaab was worrisome.  Fighting that terrorist group required an integrated, comprehensive approach that included women, youth, businesses and religious leaders alongside security-sector reform, particularly the rapid development of the Somali National Army.  Stressing the importance of the Consultative Conference on Police Reform in Somalia, held in March in Nairobi, he said outcomes would help to shape the 2017-2025 national development plan.  Emphasizing that the most vulnerable sectors of the population must be protected, he called on the Government to choose the path of mediation and stability, particularly where humanitarian relief was crucial.  In closing, he condemned the deplorable, continued attacks by foreign and national groups against civilians.

JUAN MANUEL GONZÁLEZ DE LINARES PALOU (Spain) said 2016 was critical for shoring up stability and peace in Somalia.  Welcoming the agreement between Puntland and Somalia, he called on Parliament to ratify it promptly.  He also welcomed the decision to earmark 30 per cent of parliamentary seats for women.  He urged Somali leaders to stick to dialogue and avoid relapsing into divisions that side-tracked the political process because a crisis would roll back gains that had taken years to achieve.  It was important to continue with the constitutional review process and federal nation-building.  In Hiraan and Middle Shabelle, interim authorities must be set up to promote reconciliation among clans in those regions.  Condemning terrorist attacks by Al-Shabaab on civilians and attacks on AMISOM, he said the terrorist group could be destroyed.  To accomplish that, AMISOM must establish the control and command structure, including central intelligence.  Both institutions needed larger mandates to respond to Al-Shabaab’s asymmetric war tactics.  Meanwhile, other pressing issues needed to be addressed, he said, including that some 4.9 million Somalis needed humanitarian aid and the El Niño phenomenon had left many malnourished.

MOTOHIDE YOSHIKAWA (Japan) said it was very encouraging to hear that an agreement had been reached on details of the electoral model.  Calling on all parties to engage in the process towards the August election, he stressed the urgent need to make progress on a political road map leading to one-person-one-vote elections in 2020.  Al-Shabaab remained a major threat, he said, paying tribute to members of ANISOM and the Somali National Army for their efforts.  In order to stop Al-Shabaab from making further gains, offensive action needed to be carried out in a more coordinated manner.  Security sector reform was also important, he said, citing capacity-building needs for the maritime police force.  State-building efforts had to be Somali-led and supported by the international community.  Through United Nations agencies, Japan had provided $38.5 million in additional assistance for State-building, strengthening the capacity of the security sector and revitalizing the economy, he said, emphasizing Japan’s strong commitment to help Somalia at the current critical juncture.

RAFAEL DARIO RAMIREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) noted with concern the re-emergence of Al-Shabaab, which had become more assertive, sending hundreds of combatants to attack military targets.  The process of setting up Somali institutions had been painstakingly long and challenging, with international support needed now more than ever before.  The Security Council had to heed the appeal for lifting sanctions, including the arms embargo, he said, and the United Nations had to be more effective in cutting off sources of financing for Al-Shabaab.  Despite a tighter embargo on charcoal, Al-Shabaab had found new sources of financing, including blackmail, exploitation of transport routes, illicit trade in natural resources and donations from the Somali diaspora.  Tax evasion was rife and the oil industry was exploiting Somalia’s federal characteristics to reap benefits.  The lives of tens of thousands of people were being put at risk by the seizure of fish stocks and rampant fishing in Somali waters.  He appealed to the international community to provide humanitarian assistance and regretted to say how aid was not getting to places with the most needs.  Every sector of Somali society needed to understand that only through political unity could terrorism be stamped out and major challenges confronted, he concluded.

PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand), emphasizing that the August elections must be Somali-led, welcomed the National Leadership Forum’s agreement on an electoral model.  Still, other political priorities needed attention and dialogue between the Federal Government and regional administrations must continue.  Key issues must also be addressed, such as setting regional boundaries, completing the constitutional reform process and determining national resources governance.  Services must be provided for people in areas under Government control, with closer coordination between the Somali National Army and police forces being vital for long-term stability, defeating terrorism and implementing an exit strategy for ongoing international missions.  Also essential was the implementation of the Djibouti Declaration.  AMISOM’s financial challenges underlined the need to move beyond reliance on ad hoc financing for regionally led peacekeeping missions in Africa, he said, adding that more predictable funding was needed.

RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) recognized steady improvements since 2012 and called for further progress in the coming weeks and months on the political and security fronts.  Continued active international engagement was needed to advance political, security and socioeconomic development, he said, commending steps to create a new electoral model.  The National Leadership Forum decision should be instituted by other regions, with the inclusive process that had led to agreement on key principles in the electoral process paving the way for one-person-one-vote elections in 2020.  Women’s voices must also be adequately included.  Welcoming the transformation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) humanitarian coordination office in Somalia into a development office, he noted that chronic food insecurity, malnutrition and cyclical violence were worrisome.  Those ills, along with the El Niño phenomenon, had exacerbated already precarious situations.  Unimpeded access of humanitarian aid must be granted, he said, expressing support for quick-impact projects to fuel local economies in order to win hearts and minds and to defeat Al-Shabaab.

ALEXIS LAMEK (France) said the news from Somalia in the past month had been worrying, with Al-Shabaab still active.  The fight against that group was a collective one and France — through the United Nations and European Union — remained fully engaged, alongside troop-contributing countries.  In order to progress, AMISOM needed to launch more offensive operations against Al-Shabaab.  Calling on the African Union and troop-contributing countries to improve the Mission’s actions, he stressed the need for exemplary conduct among its troops, saying impunity for some contingents was an issue that had undermined its credibility.  Developing a Somali-led solution to security challenges would allow for a drawdown of troops and an exit strategy.  That, in turn, meant re-establishing the State’s authority across the country.  The role of the Somali security forces was particularly crucial in supporting AMISOM and keeping liberated areas free.  Only political action could allow Somalia to emerge from its crisis of 25 years and France was counting on all stakeholders to take necessary actions in what would be a decisive year.

ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said progress in Somalia was a reward for investing in peace in Somalia, which faced a very brutal war.  Praising agreement on the electoral process, he noted significant progress as well in the constitutional review process and the adoption in Parliament of legislation on such issues as money-laundering and the protection of vulnerable groups.  However, the country still faced considerable challenges, including the humanitarian situation and the defeat of Al-Shabaab, which was imperative if Somalia was to advance towards peace and stability.  Building the capacity of the Somali National Army and police and predictable financing from the international community were important for Somalia to guarantee its own defence.  Federal and regional authorities had to ensure compliance with human rights and the rule of law, he said, expressing Angola’s support to the President of Somalia for a brighter future.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine), welcoming progress in nation-building, good governance and economic growth, said the recent UNSOM mandate extension was necessary.  He strongly condemned the recent suicide car bombing in Mogadishu and the Al-Shabaab attack in March along the shores of Puntland, which killed children, among others.  Deeply concerned over Al-Shabaab’s recruitment of children from schools and mosques, he said both places should not be used as a poaching ground and that the Mission’s mandate must include strong child protection elements.  In that vein, he pointed out the positive impact of AMISOM and UNSOM efforts to rehabilitate former child soldiers and reunite them with their families.  He also commended the Government’s national security policy and plans for consultations with regional administrations and welcomed the 25 March announcement of peace and reconciliation in Jubaland, calling on the Government to resolve contentious issues with regional authorities.  For its part, the Security Council should stay focused on preserving current positive national trends.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said the electoral process should lead to normalization and stability in Somalia.  Noting that the involvement of international partners in Somalia and AMISOM was more vital than ever before, he called for greater attention to ensure the electoral timeline was met.  Worried about the ongoing threat of Al-Shabaab and the spread of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the region, he noted the liberation by AMISOM and the Somali National Army of the city of Adan-Yabale in Middle Shabelle region.  He paid tribute to joint operations that would allow for the return of displaced persons, including those who had fled due to the lack electricity and other supplies and services.  Rapid financing and technical support to bolster the security sector would enable a better strategy to push back against Al-Shabaab, he said, adding that he firmly condemned the misappropriation of humanitarian aid.  Transnational corporations had shown increased interest in Somalia’s mining resources, he said, adding that better cooperation between the Federal Government, federated states and national and military forces was needed to ensure comprehensive mechanisms to combat the illicit trafficking in charcoal.

WU HAITAO (China), Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity, expressing appreciation for the able leadership of the President of Somalia.  Noting the fragile security situation, he said all parties should push the peace process forward and the international community should acknowledge that it was Somali-owned and -led.  He underlined the need to consolidate peace and promote the development of the economy, given Somalia’s rich natural resources and enormous potential.  Meanwhile, the international community should improve coordination on the Somalia question, with a view to achieving synergy on assistance efforts.

For information media. Not an official record.