Government Forces Not Yet Ready to Replace AMISOM, Permanent Representative Warns, Calling for Lifting of Embargo on Heavy Weaponry
Hard-won Gains in Somalia could be swept away without predictable funding to ensure continued support for joint efforts to stamp out the Al-Shabaab terrorist group, as well as corruption and instability, the Security Council heard today.
Describing the sustainable funding of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) as a top priority, Michael Keating, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), said by videoconference that ongoing efforts, as well as the peaceful transition of power in early 2017, had created a sense of hope and a moment of political opportunity. “But, the honeymoon period is now over,” he added, citing the formidable immediate and long-term humanitarian, economic, security and political challenges that persisted against a backdrop of regional instability.
Somali politicians and power brokers were threatening impeachment and no-confidence votes, as disputes simmered in several regions and Al-Shabaab continued to mount terrorist attacks, he said in providing a snapshot of events unfolding since the Secretary-General issued his latest report on Somalia (document S/2017/751). A united Security Council and international solidarity were essential in supporting the gradual, fragile progress under way, he emphasized.
He went on to highlight the stable situation in Mogadishu and the Federal Government’s other achievements in passing priority laws, drafting national strategies on pressing issues and improving the security sector. The worst of the famine had been averted because the international community had contributed $1 billion to address needs arising from the drought, he said, noting that the effort had made it possible to reach more than 3 million people every month.
However, key issues must be resolved, with the next step being a national conference to be held in October, he said, adding that its aim would be to agree on a two-year master plan and on preparations for the elections expected in 2020 and 2021. Providing practical support for Somalia’s leadership was essential, he pointed out, emphasizing that a sustainable transitional plan must ensure a smooth handover of security responsibilities.
Indeed, a future peaceful and stable Somalia would depend on continued investments now, said Francisco Caetano José Madeira, Special Representative of the African Union Commission Chairperson for Somalia and Head of AMISOM, also via videoconference. Predictable and sustainable funding was central to the Mission remaining in the country and honouring its obligation to ensure effective operations to destroy Al-Shabaab, protect civilians, support the delivery of humanitarian assistance and ensure a smooth transition from AMISOM to the Somali authorities in such a manner as to ensure that the country’s gains would not be reversed.
“The alternative is gloomy,” he said, adding that funding was “essential for us to be able to undertake the operations”. For its part, the Mission was holding AMISOM-UNSOM joint training sessions, tackling child recruitment by terrorist groups and working with the Federal Government and international partners on the national security architecture and a new security pact. As for the Mission’s exit strategy, he said a conference of African Union and Federal Government experts had addressed such issues as the handover of security responsibilities and the release of 1,000 AMISOM troops before the scheduled drawdown in December. The experts had also discussed a possible contingency plan for early withdrawal, should financial support dry up, he added.
Abukar Dahir Osman (Somalia) said his country was striving for lasting security and stronger democratic institutions. To that end, the Federal Government of Somalia was sparing no effort in fighting terrorism, corruption and poverty. Its overall vision was a strong and cooperative federal union that would work for all Somalis. The formation of a new National Security Council marked a step closer to that objective, he said, adding that the Government, the federal member states and other stakeholders had been discussing major issues, including the sharing of natural resources, in the context of the constitutional review process.
Emphasizing that security remained paramount for the Government, he expressed confidence that its forces, working with AMISOM, could defeat Al-Shabaab in the “next couple of years”. However, it needed the tools to do so, he said, recalling that, for far too long, Government forces had been fighting terrorist groups with only AK-47s and other light weapons, while AMISOM provided the heavy weaponry. The long-standing arms embargo imposed on Somalia severely restricted the Government’s ability to procure heavy weapons. “The time has come for Somalia to be able to get access to qualitatively better weapons,” he said, asking the Council for a clearly defined road map that would lead to a full lifting of the embargo.
Noting that AMISOM would withdraw by 31 May 2018 unless predictable and sustainable funding were in place, he said the Somali National Army and the security forces were not yet ready to fill the void. AMISOM’s premature withdrawal might be a recipe for disaster, he warned, emphasizing that it was crucial to finance the Mission beyond 31 May 2018. For far too long, conventional wisdom had held that Somalia was a problem to fix, and that the humanitarian situation of its people was an example of the State’s failure to do its job. Today, the Government was committed to seizing a golden opportunity to deliver a better, stronger and more prosperous Somalia, led by the hopes and aspirations of its people, he said.
Following those briefings, Luis Bermúdez (Uruguay) welcomed the “fresh momentum” generated by the London donor conference, noting that it would prove critical in continuing Somalia’s political progress. He called for urgent security sector reform to address such concerns as terrorist attacks, and for Somalia’s ownership of all reform efforts. The country’s transition must be conducted in such a way that the gains of the last decade would not be lost. The need to protect civilians was particularly crucial, he stressed, urging the Government to seek mediation in areas where their safety was most at risk. Echoing calls for the Puntland authorities to ensure the release of children recruited by Al-Shabaab, he called for enhanced legal human rights frameworks and stronger efforts to combat violations.
The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 11:01 a.m.