‘Astonishing’ Gains Made against Al-Shabaab, Says Permanent Representative
The recent approval of Somalia’s security transition plan by the Council of Ministers, and its endorsement by the African Union Peace and Security Council, marked a milestone in the country’s path towards assuming full responsibility for its own stability, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today.
Speaking via videoconference from Mogadishu, Michael Keating, who also heads the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), underlined the imperative of implementing the plan. A successful transition would also require deep reform of Somalia’s security forces and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) alike, he said, whether relating to more flexible joint operations, greater emphasis on policing, adequate enablers or stronger accountability as well as operational support by the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS).
On the political front, he said, there were crises resulting from competition for power and resources, complicated by the weakness of national institutions, ambiguities in the Constitution and growing pains relating to the emergence of federal arrangements. The humanitarian situation, while improved, remained serious, with flooding affecting more than 718,000 people in the central and southern regions, he said. Unity among Somalia’s leaders, complemented by coherent support from the Security Council and the broader international community, would be the key to its success.
On that point, Francisco Caetano José Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia and Head of AMISOM, said several challenges had been exacerbated by the spillover effects of international rivalries within the region, which were sowing the seeds of division among Somalis, forcing them to choose sides.
Also speaking from Mogadishu, he pressed the Council to deliver an unequivocal statement requesting that all actors refrain from actions that could further heighten tensions. Underscoring the need to ensure that all parties embraced common goals, he declared: “These people speak the same language, they belong to the same nation and they have the same aspirations.” Warning that Al‑Shabaab had expanded its reach, he underlined that destroying the group would require the Council’s continued attention and predictable funding for AMISOM.
Following the briefings, Somalia’s representative said progress had indeed been made on the President’s priority commitment to security sector reform. The Government had developed a security transition plan through an inclusive process, laying out strategic guidelines that would facilitate detailed planning in the coming years.
Describing the gains made against Al‑Shabaab as “astonishing”, he said stabilization efforts would be just as critical in addressing the causes of conflict. “Our credibility and legitimacy as a Government hinges on our ability to promote social reconciliation, good governance, and provide public services,” he said. While Somalia’s challenges were significant, the Council’s continued support would help to shift the perception of Somalia from weakness to resilience.
Also speaking today were representatives of Equatorial Guinea, Bolivia, Peru, Côte d’Ivoire and Kazakhstan.
The meeting began at 3:26 p.m. and ended at 4:35 p.m.
MICHAEL KEATING, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Somalia and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), speaking via videoconference from Mogadishu, said events over the last 48 hours highlighted the complexity of the situation. Today had seen the conclusion of the National Constitutional Convention, which augured well for enhancing the rule of law as well as stability and reconciliation. In Baidoa, federal member state presidents were meeting in the Council of Interstate Cooperation to prepare for engagement with the federal Government on critical issues relating to security, resource and revenue sharing.
Meanwhile, the African Union and the United Nations joint review team were meeting Somali and international actors to discuss the implications of the national security transition plan for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). In Beledweyne, humanitarian personnel were working with local communities to address the catastrophic impact of floods on 200,000 people, he said. To its credit, the federal Government had not been deflected from embracing economic reform, security sector reform and inclusive politics, an agenda that required support from the Security Council and other international partners.
While the humanitarian situation had improved over the year, it remained very serious by any global measure, with the Gu rains and flooding having affected more than 718,000 people in the central and southern regions, creating large‑scale population displacement, economic damage and cholera. He appealed to donors to support the $1.5 billion 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan, which was only 24 per cent funded. Success in raising revenues, attracting grants and budget support had provided a basis for investment and the creation of jobs, as well as for tackling security and State‑building challenges, as well as strengthening relations with federal member states, not least through resource and revenue sharing agreements.
On the security front, Al‑Shabaab continued to execute deadly terrorist attacks against civilians and military targets, including AMISOM, he said, emphasizing that the factors breeding terrorism — youth unemployment, corruption, a sense of injustice and unresolved conflict — could not be left until later. On defence reform, the Government was taking bold steps such as biometric registration, payroll reform and operational readiness assessments, while recognizing that more must be done, he said. Further, the Council of Ministers had approved the security transition plan on 19 April, seeking to build operational and institutional capacity for the armed forces, as well as in the areas of justice, accountable local governance, freedom of movement and service delivery.
For its part, AMISOM continued to protect population centres, main supply routes and Somalia’s overall political progress, he continued. However, a successful security transition would require deep reform of Somalia’s security forces and AMISOM alike, whether relating to more flexible joint operations and combat mentoring, greater emphasis on policing, adequate enablers and force multipliers, or stronger accountability. More flexible operational support from the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) would also be needed, as would predictable financing.
Turning to the political front, he said competition for power and resources was complicated by the weakness of Somali institutions, ambiguities in the Provisional Federal Constitution, and growing pains associated with the emergence of federal arrangements. The most prominent fault lines related to the impact of the dispute in the Arabian Gulf, the role of parliamentarians in politics and relations between the leaders of the federal member states and the federal Government. The stand‑off between the federal Government and Parliament had been resolved in early April, with the resignation of the Speaker of the House of the People and the election of a new one. However, the zero‑tolerance policy of the United Nations on violence by any party in the resolution of political disputes had led to Somalis accusing each other of bias, he said, explaining that relations among powerful Somali actors were being tested as a result. The country needed respectful relations with all its international partners, he added, emphasizing that greater Somali unity was the best way to minimize the impact of the Gulf dispute.
Regarding the dispute in Tukaraq, he said fighting had erupted and deaths had been reported, but the President had called for an immediate ceasefire and resumed dialogue between leaders of Somaliland and Puntland. At risk was the welfare of hundreds of thousands of people and possibly mass displacement at a time when humanitarian funds were low. Warning that such a conflict would unravel more than 20 years of relatively peaceful coexistence, he urged the Council to engage with all concerned to reduce tensions and discourage those who might seek advantage from the situation. That crisis could not distract from the progress made in resolving conflicts in Gaalkacyo, which was more peaceful today than it had been for years, as well as in Marka, Lower Shabelle and Galmudug, he stressed. The Government continued to advance its national reconciliation framework, recognizing that many conflicts in Somalia — whether over resources, clan disputes or the federal member state formation — must benefit from engagement with civil society. He reiterated that unity among Somalia’s leaders, complemented by coherent support from the Council and the broader international community, would be the key to the country’s success.
FRANCISCO CAETANO JOSÉ MADEIRA, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia and Head of the AMISON, also briefed via videoconference, stressing that the country had faced many challenges since his last briefing — some of which threatened to reverse progress made there. Citing several military operations currently being undertaken by Somali forces despite limited resources, he said challenges had been exacerbated by the spillover effects of international rivalries and divisions within the region. Warning that those rivalries were sowing the seeds of division among Somalis, forcing them to choose sides, he asked the Council to deliver a strong and unequivocal statement to all actors requesting that they refrain from actions that could further heighten tensions. In Somalia, recent political crises had further underscored the need to rebuild the country’s institutions and ensure that all parties embraced common goals. “These people speak the same language, they belong to the same nation and they have the same aspirations,” he said, emphasizing that those commonalities could serve to draw Somalis together and help them reject divisions.
Spotlighting the Government’s commitment to completing Somalia’s constitutional review and setting the stage for elections by 2020‑2021, he said the convening of a constitutional convention this week in Mogadishu had been a clear demonstration that the Government intended to “match its words with deeds”. The executive branch was already improving Somalia’s fiscal management and fighting corruption. It had drafted a modern and realistic budget and put in place stronger tax collection measures. Similarly, the Government’s Anti‑Corruption Commission was taking shape, and Somalia’s pathway to debt relief was fast becoming a reality. For its part, he said, AMISOM must adjust its approach to better suit the reality on the ground. Its uniformed personnel would require additional resources and the Mission must take a more flexible approach to its provision of logistical support. Urging the international community to focus on addressing gaps identified in the last operational readiness assessment, he spotlighted the need to satisfy such critical operational requirements as adequate supplies, transport and logistics.
In the coming weeks and months, he said, Somali forces would be implementing the operational portion of the country’s transition plan. It could not afford to spend resources liberating towns from Al‑Shabaab only to see them returned to that group. Effective recovery — as well as the permanent holding of towns and cities and the effective protection of populations — was critical. Conditions must be created for the local economy, trade and commerce to flourish and for citizens to go about their lives freely and without fear of attacks from Al‑Shabaab. That would require the full commitment of the Government and its institutions as well as the United Nations and other partners. Warning that Al‑Shabaab had recently expanded its reach and resilience, he said countering and destroying it would require the Council’s continued attention and its provision of predictable, sustainable funding for AMISOM.
NARCISO SIPACO RIBALA (Equatorial Guinea) said despite challenges to strengthening the State, consolidating security institutions and a fragile economy, Somalia had taken significant steps since presidential and parliamentary elections. The challenges ahead were immense, as represented by the threat of Al‑Shabaab, whose determination could be related to the lack of job opportunities for young people, unresolved disputes and a weak judicial system. Disagreement between federal State leaders and the Government were other challenges. Somali political leaders must be forced to reach an understanding to foster a healthier political atmosphere that encouraged international actors to offer support. Stable funding for UNSOM and AMISOM was essential.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said stability in Somalia was crucial and must be sought through formalization of the status of the federal member states, implementation of the security architecture, strengthening of resilience and steps to overhaul the economy. Hailing the President’s visits to various regions of his country, he said the road map for inclusive politics 2017‑2020 had led to significant progress. It was vital that the national transition plan be delivered upon once military and police forces, and legal and anti‑corruption bodies were fully operational. He advocated Somali ownership of confidence‑building measures. He supported AMISOM mediation efforts, underscoring the role of the African Union Peace and Security Council. The Security Council must play a role alongside in boosting the Mission’s capacity. He voiced concern over the humanitarian situation and recruitment of child soldiers, and high levels of sexual violence.
FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru) said the humanitarian crisis weighed heavily on 5.4 million people, while the security situation was unstable amid unchecked violations against women and children. He pointed to significant progress on the economy, expressing hope that technical support would foster economic reform. Condemning attacks by Al‑Shabaab, he underscored the importance of the transition plan so that Somali forces could assume full responsibility for security, and the need to guarantee financial support for such implementation to be coordinated between the federal Government and federal member states. He welcomed Government efforts to maintain momentum on peace and reconciliation issues. Priority should be given to the constitutional reform process, he said, highlighting the need to involve women in such work and empower young people, and for Gulf countries to support Somalia’s federal Government.
THÉODORE DAH (Côte d’Ivoire) welcomed the improved relations between the federal Government and local States, the adoption by political parties of the political road map for 2017‑2020 and the involvement of federal authorities in reconciliation and electoral initiatives. However, he also expressed concern about continued tensions within the federal Government and the continued threat posed by Al‑Shabaab. Recent attacks — including against AMISOM personnel — attested to the need to move more quickly towards implementing Somalia’s security transition plan and for all actors to pool their efforts to combat Al‑Shabaab. Somali authorities continued to make progress in implementing the national security architecture and improving the rule of law, he noted, citing recently signed agreements relating to the country’s judicial and penitentiary systems. Expressing concern about Somalia’s humanitarian situation — one of the most alarming in the world — he said conditions had recently been aggravated by severe flooding. Humanitarian needs were increasing while only 19 per cent of the 2018 humanitarian plan was funded. He concluded by urging the Somali authorities and their international partners to address the root causes of famine in the country.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said that, over the last year, Somalia’s new Government had been able to develop an effective plan of action — including reform of the financial sector, the creation of jobs, social cohesion policies, conflict resolution and security sector reform. Commending those efforts, he said follow‑up steps were also needed to formalize agreements on the division of powers, managing resources and sharing revenues. However, Kazakhstan remained concerned about Al‑Shabaab’s continued attacks against the national army, AMISOM and civilians, which were exacerbated by inter‑clan violence, he said. While the troops on the front lines were playing a critical role in restoring State authority, predictable and sustainable funding remained a challenge in ensuring its ability to function adequately, he said. Commending the Government on having finalized the security transition plan, he said realistic time frames and conditions were needed to ensure compliance with the priority tasks and benchmarks. Somalia’s acute financial condition — as well as its need for more effective coordination and cooperation with partners — posed serious challenges, he stressed.
ABUKAR DAHIR OSMAN (Somalia) noted that today marked the seventy‑fifth anniversary of the Somali Youth League, the country’s first political party, which had been instrumental in achieving independence in 1960 and creating one of Africa’s first democracies in the process. The hope created by that party was a major source of optimism in the quest for peace in a resurgent Somalia today. He emphasized that safeguarding political stability was a prerequisite for security, economic development and recovery. The parliamentary tensions cited in the report had been resolved, a testament to the capacity of Somalis to engage in peaceful democratic solutions while respecting parliamentary rules of procedure and the Constitution.
There had also been progress on the President’s commitment to accelerate security sector reform, he continued, noting that the Government had developed a realistic, phased and conditions‑based transition plan, working with AMISOM, troop‑contributing countries, the United Nations, the European Union and other partners. The plan, endorsed by the Cabinet and the African Union Peace and Security Council, laid out strategic guidelines that would facilitate planning in the coming years, he said, adding that it focused on the building the institutional capacity of Somalia’s forces while outlining security operations and support for stabilization efforts.
He went on to state that while the gains made by AMISOM and Somalia’s national armed forces against Al‑Shabaab had been “astonishing”, stabilization efforts would be just as critical in helping the country address the causes of conflict. “Our credibility and legitimacy as a Government hinges on our ability to promote social reconciliation, good governance, and provide public services,” he said. The only way to implement the transition was for the Somali National Army to carry out joint operations with AMISOM, he said.
Meanwhile, the President and Prime Minister had offered a national vision to foster unity and reconciliation, he noted. On the political front, the federal Government would continue to work with federal member states to implement an ambitious road map that would include the revision of the provisional constitution and preparations for elections in 2020. Addressing Somalia’s challenges would require long‑term efforts to address the structural political and legacy issues of corruption, from lack of oversight and accountability, to resourcing legitimate institutions. “But we are on the right path”, with continued support from the Council, he said.