Political Turbulence Still Threatens Somalia’s ‘Positive Trajectory’, Special Representative Warns in Briefing to Security Council

SC/13654
3 January 2019
8440th Meeting (AM)

Political Turbulence Still Threatens Somalia’s ‘Positive Trajectory’, Special Representative Warns in Briefing to Security Council

Mogadishu Delegate Says Al-Shabaab Members Cannot Assume Opposition Leadership without Undergoing Rehabilitation

While Somalia has maintained a positive trajectory — marked by a “far‑reaching” reform agenda and expanded domestic revenues — ongoing political turbulence could throw it off course, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for that country warned the Security Council today.

Nicholas Haysom, who is also Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), said he was well received by officials of the Federal Government and regional States alike when he arrived on 3 October 2018, adding that he has been impressed with the Government’s commitment to implementing reforms through roadmaps in various sectors — inclusive politics, security and justice, economic recovery, and social and human development.  Better public financial management and an expanded domestic revenue base — with an $8 million surplus in September — mean that 56 per cent of the Federal Government’s $340 million budget for 2019 will be financed from domestic revenue, he noted.

The road map on inclusive politics covers elections, the constitutional review, federalism and reconciliation — the essential components of State‑building — he pointed out, adding that the draft electoral law has been submitted to the Cabinet, while amendments from political parties, civil society and the international community have been provided.  Delay in submitting that law to Parliament will see a milestone missed, he cautioned, recalling the Government’s pledge to have it adopted by December 2018.  Meanwhile, the National Independent Electoral Commission continues to make headway with preparations for pre-voter registration.  Technical cooperation has continued on the constitutional review and the Federal National Technical Committee is negotiating draft political agreements on justice, sharing of mineral resources, allocation of powers and fiscal federalism.

Yet, the stalemate between the Federal Government and leaders of the federal member states continues to impede progress on defining the federal model, building State institutions and implementing the national security architecture, he said.  Since the halt in cooperation on 8 September 2018, however, there have been encouraging efforts to restore relations, notably President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo’s offer of direct dialogue behind closed doors.  The landscape is complicated by electoral processes under way in several federal member states, he added.  “Politics is complex in any nation, but in one that is still establishing its norms and institutional parameters — and still debating the roles and responsibilities of its respective governance structures — there is a risk that complexity shifts to conflict.”  In South West State, allegations of Federal Government interference in the electoral process and violence following the arrest of a candidate — a former Al-Shabaab deputy leader — does not bode well for electoral processes in other regions or for the 2020 national elections, he cautioned, noting that tensions also surfaced on 9 December 2018 when members of the House of the People submitted a motion to impeach the President.

Describing Al-Shabaab as the biggest source of insecurity, he said that, despite ongoing operations to degrade it, the terrorist group has the capacity to attack citizens and target electoral delegates, Somali security forces and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) alike.  It claimed responsibility for a complex attack against the Sahafi Hotel in Mogadishu on 9 November 2018, which killed more than 50 people, he noted, adding that, in Mogadishu and Puntland, elements supporting Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) have targeted business owners.

Progress on implementing the United Nations Transition Plan for Somalia, having made an encouraging start, has also slackened, he said, emphasizing the need to base the overall approach to the transition on conditions, with the building of Somali security institutions as the main factor setting the pace.  At the regional level, the tripartite agreement signed by leaders of Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea on 6 September 2018 is an opportunity to boost regional ties.  However, the humanitarian crisis is among the world’s most complex, he stressed, noting that, while conditions have improved over the last year, 4.2 million people still require assistance, two thirds of them children, due to above-average rains.  Around 1.5 million people are severely food insecure at crisis or emergency levels and 2.6 million are internally displaced.  “Somalia has laid the foundations to make significant progress in 2019,” he said, while underlining that the management of regional elections and the remaining political processes — notably review of the Constitution — will determine whether it continues to make gains.  “Achieving this will require all role players to pull in the same direction.”

Francisco Caetano Jose Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and Head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), briefed via teleconference from Dar-es-Salaam, highlighting areas of action which could help achieve reconciliation if properly implemented.  Taking advantage of the “winds of change blowing in the region”, Somalia has sought to complement its national security mechanisms with regional ones, collaborating with Ethiopia and Eritrea, in particular.  The importance of such cooperation cannot be overstated due to its potential to foster regional harmony and integration, he emphasized.  The Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden share a long history of diplomatic relations, he said, pointing out that business relations are also growing, substantial investments are being made and a large influx of migrants from the Horn are traveling to the Gulf.

He went on to emphasize the need for substantial efforts to ensure that relations between the Federal Government of Somalia and other sectors are addressed in an efficient manner.  Outstanding issues among national actors remain a major concern, he said, adding that they should aim for a consensual solution between the federal member states and the Federal Government, with a focus on exploring how resources can be shared.  Such a success is vital for Somalia’s cohesion and the landmark elections in 2020, he said, stressing also the essential need to build on the legislative and institutional frameworks.  He welcomed the completed review of five of the Constitution’s 15 chapters.

He went on to outline other successes, citing budgetary pledges and contributions by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Union and the World Bank.  Somalia continues to demonstrate its readiness to take over from UNSOM, undertaking ongoing efforts to restructure its army throughout 2018 and reaching agreement with federal member states on several critical security aspects.  AMISOM is working on its exit strategy, with a focus on empowering the national security forces, with whom it has conducted joint operations, he said, adding that its police component, with limited personnel strength, have focused on leaving the country.

Following those briefings, Abukar Dahir Osman (Somalia) strongly condemned the mortar attack against the Mogadishu airport that struck the United Nations compound, stressing that law enforcement promptly began an investigation with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice.  Somalia, led by President Farmajo, is making progress on all fronts, he said, adding that, in nearly two years, the Government has advanced an organizational structure to carry out its reform agenda through four road maps designed to track implementation, improve coordination among ministries and agencies while enhancing transparency at all levels.

Recalling Somalia’s election to a three-year term on the Human Rights Council beginning this month, he reaffirmed its commitment to promoting and protecting human rights at the national and global levels.  In October 2018, Somalia acceded to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, while Parliament approved a draft law on human rights, another milestone.  With a “new mode of business”, Somalia is rebranding itself, taking its rightful place in the region.  The end of 2018 marked an exciting time of partnership in the Horn of Africa, with an agreement aiming to promote peace and security across the region, he said.

Among other gains, Somalia has reached an agreement on an electoral system for 2020 and completed half of its constitutional review process, he continued.  It has reviewed the law on political parties and drafted electoral legislation, he said, noting that various elections are taking place, as scheduled, in federal member states and that working relationships with those areas are improving.  Emphasizing the vital importance of building trust between citizens and the Federal Government, he cited the passage of an anti-corruption law and the establishment of an anti-corruption commission in that context.

To deepen federalism, Somalia has reached a resource-management agreement on the ownership and management of its fisheries, petroleum and mineral resources, he said, recalling that the President led a reconciliation effort across the country.  In the north-west, he is leading a mediation effort to de-escalate tensions, and in Lower Shabelle, his support has bolstered security along the coastal line.  Further on the security front, Somalia is implementing its transition plan and aligning its activities through its security and justice road map, he said.  The Somali army conducted operations in support of transition implementation in Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle.

Furthermore, the Federal Government restructured the national intelligence agency, moving operational units to the Somali police force, he said.  In line with its reforms, the House of the People approved a pension and gratuity bill that offers a path for large numbers of inactive civil servants, he added.  On the economic front, the fight against corruption continues.  High-ranking officials have been arrested and charged with embezzlement, domestic revenues have increased, the tax base has expanded and a staff-level agreement has been reached with IMF, paving the way for debt relief.

Somalia has developed a resilience and recovery framework, and more broadly, is working to establish policies that enhance access to health care, education, clean water and electricity, having tripled the budget for such basic services.  Noting that respect for the rule of law is enshrined in the provisional Constitution — as are the principles of fairness, good governance, transparency and accountability — he said that renders decisions by Somalia’s leaders subject to scrutiny.  The Federal Government has made public engagement a critical pillar in its approach to governance, with young people finding their voice through public forums, he said.

“Our legitimacy, credibility and impact of Government decisions depends on the wishes of the Somali people,” he stressed.  “We have a duty as their representatives to give them a voice.”  Indeed, the Federal Government is taking Somalia to a new future as a sovereign nation.  He underlined, however, that Al‑Shabaab members under United Nations sanctions cannot assume opposition leadership without undergoing rehabilitation.  As a maturing nation, “we do not shy away from the task ahead of us”, he said, adding that Somalia is gradually taking the lead in tackling its own challenges.  As such, the Council has a duty to respect mandates and not to interfere in Somalia’s internal affairs, he said, emphasizing that collaboration with the United Nations on that basis is more likely to result in positive outcomes.

The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 11:03 a.m.

For information media. Not an official record.