24 January 2018
8165th Meeting (AM)

Military, Political Strategy Vital to Addressing Terrorist Threat in Somalia, Special Representative Tells Security Council

Following the worst improvised explosive device attack ever carried out, defeating terrorism in Somalia would require the use of both “carrots and sticks”, the Security Council heard today, as representatives were also updated on the humanitarian situation and political developments in the country.

“Al-Shabaab remains a potent threat, despite or perhaps precisely because it is on the back foot as a result of financial pressures, counter-terrorism operations and air strikes,” said Michael Keating, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), introducing the report of the Secretary-General on Somalia (document S/2017/1109).

On 14 October 2017, an estimated 512 people were killed, nearly all civilians, in a truck bomb attack in Mogadishu, said Mr. Keating, underscoring that both a military and political strategy were needed to address the continued terrorist threat in the country.

Sustained efforts to address deficits that lent extremists a degree of credibility were also needed, said Mr. Keating, including those that aimed to tackle corruption, lack of educational and job opportunities for young people, weak national justice and corrections capacity, and grievances arising from unresolved disputes.

Beyond terrorism, numerous other daunting challenges faced the county, he said, including chronic poverty and persistent humanitarian needs.  The risk of famine still loomed after four consecutive rainy seasons and food security needs were nearly double the five-year average, with an estimated 62 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.  Malnutrition had reached emergency levels in many locations and were expected to rise, while drought and conflict had displaced more than 2 million people within the country, up to a million of them in the last 12 months, including many children and more than 80,000 pregnant women.

Given the recurrent nature of droughts in Somalia, addressing the root causes of Somalia’s fragility and building resistance to shocks to prevent further refugee flows and displacement was imperative, underlined Mr. Keating.  Continued support was needed to help Somalia break the cycle of recurrent crises that caused so much suffering and undermined the peacebuilding and State-building process.

Central to that effort was gaining political agreement as to how power would be exercised, shared and accounted for, he said.  Immediate priorities included the development and adoption of the electoral law by the Parliament, reaching agreement on the system of representation, decisions on voter registration, and capacity-building and institutional development of the National Independent Electoral Commission, including in the federal member states.

He highlighted that in implementing a multipronged agenda focused on financial reform, job creation, inclusive politics, conflict resolution and reform of the security sector, the Government faced major challenges, including the mobilization of adequate technical and financial capacity, and ensuring coherent and coordinated approaches by national and international actors.  The form and structure of Somalia’s federal system was still a matter of vigorous debate, but the renewed commitment of the Federal Government and federal member states to cooperate to address Somalia’s needs was essential for making progress on political, security and development priorities.

The improving relationship between the Government and the private sector was encouraging, as was Somalia’s relationship with international partners, although politics in the country remained turbulent, he noted, adding that corruption was a blight that undermined reform efforts and limited the confidence and trust of Somalis in their leaders and institutions.  There also needed to be greater respect for the rule of law and resistance to the use of violence against political opponents.

The human rights situation in Somalia continued to be of great concern, he stressed, pointing to weak rule of law capacities and mechanisms to protect and promote basic rights.  Forced evictions, sexual violence and repression of freedom of expression were among the many indicators, with marginalized and minority groups particularly vulnerable.

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) remained fundamental for security in the country, but could not stay indefinitely, he warned, adding that 2018 would require dedicated effort by the Somali leadership, the African Union and international partners to build the political acceptability and operational capacity of the Somali security sector.  A premature drawdown of AMISOM forces would be a gift to Al-Shabaab and risked undermining the gains that had been made, at great human and financial costs, over the last decade.

Francisco Caetano José Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Africa and Head of AMISOM, speaking via video teleconference from Addis Ababa, said 2018 would be crucial for the Union and AMISOM in Somalia, recalling that Security Council resolution 2372 (2017) had requested that the Mission reduce its troop levels, increase its police contingent and conduct offensive operations against Al-Shabaab.

The Mission was in regular contact with the Government to discuss a seamless, conditions-based and responsible withdrawal, he said, emphasizing the importance of coherence among various stakeholders and the need to avoid duplication while taking into consideration the operationalization of a Somalia‑African Union task force.  AMISOM would work with the Somali National Army in carrying out robust operations against Al-Shabaab, although such operations would be subject to the availability of requisite force enablers and multipliers.

He said that the African Union and the Mission shared the Federal Government’s assessment that the Somali National Army was not currently in a position to take over from AMISOM forces.  The Mission was carrying the burden of security and would continue to mentor the Somali military and police, as requested by the Council, until such time as conditions deemed it appropriate for Somalia to fully assume its security responsibilities.

He emphasized the need for predictable and sustainable funding for AMISOM and the Somali security forces, stating that the Mission expected generous contributions following the appointment of two AMISOM financing envoys, whose roles would be crucial in the coming months.

The Federal Government of Somalia was committed to making progress on security and financial reform, said Abukar Dahir Osman (Somalia), noting that there had been much progress since the security conference including a “plan for the plan”, which had been developed in collaboration with the federal member states.  The relationship between the Government and the states was strong, as was demonstrated by Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo’s current peace tour in the central region.  Already there had been close collaboration with the federal member states on economic recovery, dealing with anti-corruption issues and reform.  However, the existing arms embargo framework was a major obstacle to the effective implementation of its ambitious security sector reform.

In the past, there had been less clarity on security than on economic and social reform, but, now, Somalia’s national security architecture provided a comprehensive approach, he said.  The devastating truck-bomb explosion in Mogadishu underscored the ability of terrorists to stage large-scale attacks despite a months-long offensive against them.  The Somali people and Government were more united than ever in the fight against Al-Shabaab.

His Government was also committed to implementing democratic, transparent and credible elections by 2020‑2021 under the leadership of President Farmajo, he said.  The holding of those elections was articulated in the provisional Constitution of Somalia, and the political road map emphasized that democratization was an essential component in building a viable State.  That road map set out the steps necessary to achieve the envisaged elections, with a division of roles, responsibilities and timelines of different constitutionally mandated Government institutions.

Stressing that it was imperative to ensure lasting and sustainable peace and decrease State fragility in Somalia, Pedro Luis Inchauste Jordán (Bolivia) emphasized the importance of UNSOM’s efforts to support national security forces to improve capacity in the areas of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, as well as the management of weapons, maritime security and strengthening of the police force in the country.  He noted with concern the Al-Shabaab threat and expressed concern about Somalia’s ongoing, precarious humanitarian situation.

Gustavo Meza-Cuadra (Peru) said it was critical for there to be a gradual and organized transfer of responsibility from AMISOM to the Somali authorities, ensuring they were duly prepared to respond to existing threats.  Joint and coordinated action was necessary on all levels of Government and trust must continue to be built between the Federal Government and the federal member states.  It was important to overhaul the Constitution and resolve central issues of conflict, he underscored, pointing to the political divisions that existed in Somalia as the biggest hindrance to the achievement in reforming the country.

The meeting started at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 11:04 a.m.

For information media. Not an official record.