Inclusive Elections, Combating Terrorism Critical to Stabilizing Somalia, Speakers Underline in Security Council

SC/13925
21 August 2019
8601st Meeting (AM)

Inclusive Elections, Combating Terrorism Critical to Stabilizing Somalia, Speakers Underline in Security Council

Permanent Representative Urges Focusing on Country’s ‘Continued Upward Trajectory, Steady Path’ towards Rebuilding Process

Amid a fragile security landscape marred by terrorist attacks and a drought leaving more than 2 million people facing acute food insecurity in Somalia, officials told the Security Council today that the success of forthcoming elections and enhanced stability across the country hinges on genuine, dedicated cooperation and coordination among all parties.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), describing recent developments, raised concerns about the latest al-Shabaab attack and expressed alarm that 2.2 million Somalis are facing acute food insecurity.  Cautioning that political progress may be delayed without renewed dialogue and cooperation among all stakeholders, he called for consensus and compromise among Somalia’s leaders at the national level and particularly between the central Government and Federal member states.

Indeed, Somalia’s national electoral cycle in 2020 and 2021 offers an opportunity to advance the process of democratization, building on such gains as the Galmudug state electoral process, he said.  This type of engagement is needed for a single and consensual electoral process in Jubaland in their forthcoming elections.  More broadly, he expected the Federal Constitution, once adopted, to provide a common vision for all Somalis.

Also briefing the Council, via videoconference from Mogadishu, were the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia and Head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), who outlined operations and challenges in enhancing security nationwide and halting the spread of al-Shabaab, and the Executive Director of the Somali Women Development Center, who called on the 15-member organ to urge the Federal Government to take action to guarantee women’s participation in all spheres of State-building, stressing that “talking about sexual and gender-based violence is the first step towards eliminating it”.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, briefing on her recent visit, elaborated on this challenge, saying the Federal Government has committed to developing an action plan, improving protection measures and ending impunity for perpetrators.  Indeed, a major obstruction to justice is that local customs compel victims to marry assailants or accept livestock as compensation, with recent concerns raised about the safety of a 9-year-old girl raped by a twenty-seventh brigadier soldier in Adale a few days before her visit.  Key messages she gave the Government included the importance of engaging a broad range of stakeholders, strengthened state participation, tackling conflict-related sexual violence as a matter of peace and security and of addressing its root causes.

Delegates agreed that including women in all processes will enhance security, development and well-being throughout the country, with the Dominican Republic’s representative saying that investing in women and girls has a domino effect triggering numerous benefits.

South Africa’s representative underscored the need for broad-based and inclusive reconciliation and for boosting efforts towards addressing inter-clan and intercommunal clashes.  Echoing a common call to halt the rising number of attacks by al-Shabaab, he said efforts must go beyond military operations and include the effective rehabilitation and reintegration of defectors.  In this vein, he said that if the country is to be able to take ownership of its own security challenges, the international community must provide capacity-building and coordinated support.

Council members also emphasized a need to overcome the political impasse to effectively handle pressing challenges.  France’s representative called on all parties to use dialogue to resolve differences.  Many commended the work of UNSOM and AMISOM in helping authorities to ensure progress continues on hard-won gains.

Somalia’s representative, encouraging the Council to see the current challenges in the context of his country’s continued upward trajectory and steady path towards the rebuilding process, said steps are being taken to improve relations among the states, combat sexual violence, enhance security and tackle humanitarian challenges.  “A State can only be as strong as the people within it,” he said, noting that efforts are also under way to ensure women’s participation in all aspects of life and to establish free, fair and credible elections.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, United States, Kuwait, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, China, Indonesia, Peru, Belgium, Russian Federation, Germany and Poland.

The meeting began at 9:32 a.m. and ended at 12:07 p.m.

Briefings

JAMES SWAN, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), cautioned that progress may be delayed without renewed dialogue and cooperation among all stakeholders.  He called for political consensus and compromise among Somali leaders at the national level — both the executive and legislative — and particularly between the central Government and Federal member states.  Somalia’s national electoral cycle in 2020 and 2021 offers an opportunity to advance decisively the process of democratization.  A draft electoral law is under review by the Federal Parliament and the National Independent Electoral Commission is preparing for voter registration, he said.  Calling on the Parliament’s House of the People to expedite its review and adoption of the electoral bill, he welcomed the resumption of cooperation between the two Houses of Parliament.  He also urged the empowerment of women in the political process.

Encouraging efforts to achieve a broad-based consensus on Galmudug’s electoral process, he also reiterated the need for a single and consensual electoral process in Jubaland.  The United Nations and other international partners have pressed all sides to seek compromise on an agreed path forward.  Disorder in Jubaland would place in jeopardy not only gains made in that member state, but also many critical national priorities, including preparations for the 2020 elections.  The Federal Constitution, once adopted, will provide a common vision for all Somalis.  Condemning the al-Shabaab attack on the Benadir Regional Administration on 24 July, he stressed that cooperation among the Somali security forces, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), United Nations and international partners is essential to stabilizing the areas of Lower Shabelle.  He further expressed alarm that 2.2 million Somalis are facing acute food insecurity and urged Member States to resource the drought response plan.

FRANCISCO CAETANO JOSE MADEIRA, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia and Head of the African Union Mission in Somalia, speaking via videoconference from Mogadishu, said that the political and security landscape is encouraging.  In Galmudug, there has been major progress towards reconciliation and towards the holding of elections later in 2019.  He welcomed efforts made towards uniting the Government and achieving lasting reconciliation among the 11 clans in the state.  AMISOM has held several meetings with the state government, local organizations and international partners to prepare for the upcoming elections.  The key outcome from these discussions was an agreement on the Mission’s role to help create a secure environment in the build up to the elections.  An elaborate plan for free and inclusive elections was agreed to.

In line with the decision of the African Union Peace and Security Council, a multi-stakeholder workshop was held in Kampala on electoral security, he noted.  Regarding the constitutional review process, discussions were conducted on how best to work towards implementation of agreed‑upon goals.  Somalia’s economy continues to recover with growth strengthening.  Turning to the national security situation, he said al-Shabaab remains a serious threat to stability and noted the combat patrols and targeted operations being carried out to disrupt the terrorist group.  He also highlighted progress made in driving out al-Shabaab from certain towns.  AMISOM has trained thousands of Somali police personnel and provided operational support to enhance professional policing services across the country.  He underscored various challenges faced by AMISOM, including sustaining the ability of Somalia’s forces to maintain hold of and rebuild newly liberated towns and cities.

PRAMILA PATTEN, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, highlighted her recent visit to Somalia, including meetings with Government officials, civil society and other stakeholders.  While she could not meet with survivors due to security constraints, she said information provided by the United Nations system and partners emphasized how sexual violence remains a grave concern, reflecting a deeply structural problem where many have nowhere to turn for help.  Government officials in Baidoa told of persistent insecurity and a lack of protection mechanisms, and meetings with more than 35 civil society organizations and frontline service providers in Mogadishu outlined how sexual predators are emboldened by a weak legal system.  Concerns were also raised about the common practice by al-Shabaab to force families to endorse forced marriages.  Encouraged that an International Organization for Migration (IOM)-supported project in Baidoa is providing rehabilitation and reintegration assistance to women and girls formerly associated with al-Shabaab, she said her office is already working to scale up the initiative.

Despite ongoing efforts to end impunity and the Government’s efforts to strengthen the formal justice system, she said many survivors depend on traditional mechanisms, including xeer — customary Somali law — and sharia, where a woman or girl is forced to marry their rapist to avoid shaming her family.  A major obstruction to justice is that local customs compel victims to marry assailants or accept livestock as compensation, with recent concerns raised about the safety of a 9-year-old girl raped by a twenty-seventh brigadier soldier in Adale a few days before her visit.  National authorities acknowledged that all parties to the conflict are perpetrators, made no attempt to deny or downplay the gravity of these crimes, and expressed a political will to address this scourge.  Even with a bill approached in 2018 and training, progress is slow, with terrorism remaining the major threat to peace and stability in Somalia.  The Government committed to work towards the delisting of its forces from the annex to the annual Report of the Secretary-General on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and to develop an action plan to end sexual violence in conflict, she said, adding that her office will dispatch technical expertise to help draft the plan.  Key messages she gave the Government include the importance of engaging a broad range of stakeholders, strengthened state participation, tackling conflict-related sexual violence as a matter of peace and security and of addressing its root causes.

AMINA ARALE, Executive Director of the Somali Women Development Center, addressing the Council via videoconference, outlined some of the work being done, including establishing free hotlines for victims, medical, material and legal support and shelter.  Despite recent progress in addressing the culture of violence bred by 30 years of war and instability, much more must be urgently done.  Noting that Somalia has not signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women nor has it developed an action plan on Council resolution 1325 (2000).  The Council must urge the Federal Government to ratify and implement all related legislation.  The Federal Government must also accelerate efforts to establish a national human rights commission and end impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence, create specialized court and sensitize stakekholders, including religious and traditional leaders because “talking about sexual and gender-based violence is the first step towards eliminating it,” she said.

Outlining challenges and gains, she said women’s participation in the justice sector has been met with resistance.  To change that, women’s empowerment and inclusion is essential.  Likewise, women’s participation in the peace and security sectors must be accelerated and barriers and protection risks must be addressed.  Regarding their participation in economic and political life, she said Somali women have been excluded from the negotiating table, decision-making and leadership roles and the economy, even though they are the main breadwinners in 80 per cent of households today.  The Council must urge UNSOM to work with the Government to develop a mechanism to protect female leaders, who often face retaliation, and provide updates on progress made in engaging women’s civil society in all activities.  The 15-member organ must also explicitly call on the Government to respect women’s rights and all human rights defenders.  In the near future, the Council must call for the Government and state authorities to ensure that the promised quota of 30 per cent for women in elections is enshrined in the Federal Constitution and in electoral laws.  The 2020 elections will offer a historic opportunity for women to participate in the first universal suffrage process that Somalia has had in 50 years.  “Somali women and girls deserve equal rights, opportunities and protection in all spheres of life as Somali men and boys,” she said.

Statements

STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom), commending current initiatives, said the sanctions regime is a key part of security sector reform and encouraged authorities to continue with their efforts in this regard.  Sharing concerns about the lack of progress on the issue of sexual violence, particularly in passing a related bill, he recognized that the Council indeed must integrate human rights and tackling the issue of sexual violence, and agreed that women should participate in the process.  Turning to elections in Jubaland, he called on all actors to refrain from violence and on all stakeholders to pursue a process that wins wider support.  Regarding national elections, he said the swift passage of an electoral law is vital; if such legislation is not passed by November, it could affect the coming elections.  On security, he agreed that efforts must ensure that Somali security forces are fully capable and are willing to tackle the issue of sexual violence.  In addition, much more remains to be done to stabilize Lower Shabelle and other areas, he said, adding that the international community, regional States and the Council must lend its support to Somalia in all its efforts.

JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said Somalia continues to face many challenges which were underscored by the recent attacks carried out by al-Shabaab.  He called on AMISOM and Somalia’s Government to work towards making progress on the transfer of security responsibilities.  Somali officials must also cooperate with the United Nations sanctions committee, he added, further commending the Prime Minister’s efforts to reintegrate former fighters into local security structures.  He underscored the need for close coordination on voter security, stressing the need also not to lose sight of Somalia’s humanitarian situation.  Some 5.4 million people require humanitarian assistance, he stressed, urging the international community to help fund the response.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said the achievement of reconciliation will enable Somalia’s leaders to build on important progress and also lead towards adopting the electoral bill.  Regarding the security situation, he said the latest incidents are a reminder of the real danger posed by al-Shabaab.  The ongoing food insecurity in Somalia remains of grave concern, he added, stressing that the dry season further risks impeding the Government’s ability to meet the needs of the millions of people.  Noting the progress made in economic recovery, he called on the international community to continue providing political and financial support to Somalia.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) commended the role being played in Somalia by UNSOM, AMISOM, the African Union, the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and other international partners.  Underlining the critical importance of ensuring that the country’s political process is sustained, he called on the parties to engage in a genuine national dialogue which he stressed requires compromise, cooperation and consensus.  Urging partners to provide the stakeholders with support and encouragement to that end, he also underscored the need for broad-based and inclusive reconciliation.  On the security situation, he echoed expressions of concern over the increasing number of attacks by al-Shabaab, declaring:  “These continued atrocities must be condemned and cannot go unpunished.”  It is also important to boost efforts towards addressing inter-clan and intercommunal clashes.

Commending success by the Somali National Army in its offensive operations and stabilization activities in Lower Shebelle, he went on to note that if the country is to be able to take ownership of its own security challenges the international community must provide capacity-building and coordinated support.  Accordingly, he called for the continued implementation of the Comprehensive Approach to Security, adding:  “Efforts to address al-Shabaab are not simply military, but […] include the effective rehabilitation and reintegration of defectors.”  Turning to the challenging humanitarian situation — which is exacerbated by the climactic effects of reduced seasonal rains, droughts, flooding and a resulting rise in food insecurity — he urged the international community to support the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for Somalia and underscored the imperative of creating suitable conditions for the country’s planned 2020-2021 elections.

GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) expressed concern over the tensions between the Federal Government and the Federal member states which risk undermining the stability of the country.  Both sides must overcome their differences so free and fair elections can be held.  He stressed that AMISOM, national forces and international partners must collaborate and cooperate to maintain progress made against al-Shabaab.  On human rights, he expressed particular concern over the targeting of civilians and gender-based violence.  He urged the international community to provide food assistance to Somalis in need and called on national stakeholders to guarantee the safe delivery of aid.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said that Somalia is in the process of rebuilding itself two years since the peaceful transition of power.  It has made significant progress in the political, economic and social spheres.  The backing of countries in the region and support from the United Nations, IGAD and the African Union has been essential to achieving peace and stability and countering the political stalemate.  Good relations between different levels of government remain essential to enhancing security, he emphasized, calling on parties to speed up discussions on key issues.  Authorities must ensure significant participation of women in the upcoming elections.  He condemned attacks on civilians and emphasized the need for a collective response to the terrorist threat.

WU HAITAO (China) said that despite some progress, the overall situation remains complicated, and the international community must continue to pay close attention to Somalia.  Efforts must aim at strengthening governance capacities and reviewing the Constitution.  Security capacity-building is also important, particularly in view of transferring tasks from UNSOM to the national armed forces.  Support must also continue to target financial and economic areas, he said, calling on the international community to further increase humanitarian assistance with a view to boosting development.  For its part, China has provided food aid and stands ready to support Somalia in all its efforts.

JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) said breaking the current political deadlock is critical at a time when the fragile security situation is exacerbated by al-Shabaab attacks.  Pleased with progress made in the constitutional review process, he encouraged all actors to guarantee women’s participation.  Indeed, investing in women and girls has a domino effect triggering numerous benefits, and their greater participation in all spheres of life is essential.  The representation of women in the political system is key for development.  As for elections, he underscored a need to make more progress to achieve a political agreement that encompasses all relevant issues.  He called on all actors in Jubaland to work constructively towards the forthcoming elections.  Drawing attention to climate change consequences leading to a worrying increase to humanitarian needs in Somalia, as seen in the lack of access to drinking water and rising numbers of displaced persons, he urged the international community to increase their efforts and also contribute to the drought response plan.

MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia) joined other speakers in welcoming positive developments in Somalia while expressing concern over the country’s persistent challenges.  Stressing that the latter require the continued engagement of the international community, he warned that “we must not allow the political impasse between the Federal Government and the Federal member states to jeopardize many hard-won gains”.  Calling for sustained and constructive dialogue, he underlined his delegation’s support for UNSOM in promoting the Government-led inclusive political settlement process and providing peacebuilding and State-building advice.  Turning to the ongoing threat posed by al-Shabaab, he condemned that group’s recent attacks and voiced concern that it continues to maintain the capacity to recruit, train and deploy fighters while raising considerable financing.  Against that backdrop, AMISOM’s continued presence — as well as its predictable, sustainable funding — cannot be overstated.  Noting that efforts to promote peace and stability in Somalia are taking place among a troubling humanitarian situation and resource constraints, he called on all sides to respect international law, protect civilians and provide access for humanitarian assistance.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France) voiced concern about the impasse between the Federal Government and state authorities, including in preparing for the 2020 elections, resource-sharing and the integration of the national armed forces.  Tensions persist in Jubaland ahead of the forthcoming elections, she said, calling on all parties to use dialogue to resolve differences.  Turning to the security situation, France is concerned about persistent al-Shabaab attacks and encourages AMISOM and Federal Government efforts.  On AMISOM, the troop reconfiguration should be progressive, and Council decisions in this regard must be respected.  The European Union intends to continue support for AMISOM, but would not be able to finance efforts alone, she said, adding that the Council must call on all Member States to assist.  She also drew attention to climate change challenges and the urgent need to address sexual violence, including providing assistance to victims, emphasizing that Somalia’s stabilization remains a priority for France.

LUIS UGARELLI (Peru) called on the Federal Government and states to settle differences through dialogue with a view to making headway on the key issues of State-building, including debt relief and federal elections.  Efforts must be accelerated ahead of the 2020 elections, he said, underscoring the importance of including women in all aspects of the country by guaranteeing that they make up 30 per cent of parliamentarians.  Raising concerns about terrorist attacks, he said only a coordinated response by the Federal Government and states would make progress in stamping out this threat.  He expressed hope that the coordination efforts between the Federal Government and South West state is rolled out nationwide.  Citing other concerns, from the humanitarian situation to sexual violence in conflict, he commended AMISOM, UNSOM and other key actors in helping authorities to tackle these challenges.

JEROEN COOREMAN (Belgium) said the presidential elections offer an opportunity for the political class to demonstrate its willingness to participate in democracy.  The future President of Jubaland must be open to cooperating on rebuilding and reconciliation.  Al-Shabaab continues to be the main threat to peace and security, he said, stressing the need to implement an arms embargo that would prevent the group from getting its hands on weapons.  A well-trained and professional police force is essential to ensuring peace and stability in Somalia.  Millions of people are in need of humanitarian aid, he continued, expressing alarm that droughts have become increasingly frequent and are causing food insecurity.  On sexual violence, he stressed the need to establish accountability and ensure justice.  It is encouraging that the Federal Government has committed to working on an action plan on the issue.

ALEXANDER V. REPKIN (Russian Federation) said the political situation in Somalia remains fragile and is complicated further by the conflict between different clans.  Expressing deep concern over the threat posed by al-Shabaab and their use of improvised explosive devices, he welcomed military successes made against the group.  To cut off the terrorist threat, unified national security architecture is essential.  AMISOM continues to play a key role in enhancing Somalia’s security.  Welcoming progress made in the electoral cycle, he commended efforts to boost the economy and further stressed the need to respect Somalia’s sovereignty and ensure non-interference in its internal affairs.

JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany) called for accelerated efforts to reach the ambitious goal of holding the upcoming elections.  Federalism is vital to achieving peace, he stressed, expressing concern over the electoral process to be held in Jubaland on 22 August.  These elections risk destabilizing the region.  On the security front, he said a comprehensive approach is essential in the training of new police officials.  He expressed alarm for the “very difficult humanitarian situation” which has been worsened by droughts and violence.  Cases of gender-based violence often go unreported due to cultural stigma, he said, stressing that survivors must have access to justice.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), Council President for the month and speaking in her national capacity, welcomed cooperation between the two houses of the Federal Parliament of Somalia but voiced concern about the protracted political impasse between the Federal Government and the Federal member states.  Noting that upcoming political processes — if conducted in a transparent and consensual manner — can contribute to the reestablishment of constructive dialogue, she underlined the need for cooperation and consensus to keep to the timelines of crucial reforms.  Expressing deep concern over the rising number of attacks by al-Shabaab in Somalia, as well as an increase in the use of improvised explosive devices, she said the latter should be addressed in a manner that reflects the critical nexus between mine action activities, peace and security.  Meanwhile, the international community should step up its efforts to combat the trafficking and illegal diversion of precursor chemicals by al-Shabaab.

ABUKAR DAHIR OSMAN (Somalia) encouraged the Council to see the current challenges in the context of his country’s continued upward trajectory and steady path towards the rebuilding process, adding that “a State can only be as strong as the people within it”.  In this vein, he said Somalis have demonstrated their resilience during the reporting period.  The once-divided state of Galmudug, through the Federal Government’s inclusive engagement, will soon hold a reconciliation conference leading to elections, representing an example of what could be achieved across the country.  However, the painstaking path to stability has not been easy, with elections in Jubaland on 22 August possibly resulting in a deeply divided state, given that the Federal Government found the electoral process has not been credible, inclusive nor legal.

Still, progress continues towards federal elections in 2020-2021, he said.  Indeed, Somalia has much to do in the coming months, with key milestones on its State-building journey, among them advancing gains on decisions on debt relief, elections preparations, operations against al-Shabaab and the conclusion of its constitutional review process. “It is now the turn of the leaders to put aside political differences and work to deliver these critical milestones that will lay the economic, social, security and political foundations for Somalia’s future,” he added.  With strong support from AMISOM and international partners, the Somali National Army has demonstrated its ability not only to retake the liberation of the strategic towns but also to hold these locations.

Somalia is currently undertaking significant reforms of its security forces, including through systematic human rights training, he continued, also noting the steps taken by the Government to addressing sexual violence.  The proposed listing of al-Shabaab under the 1267 sanctions regime comes at a time when heightened humanitarian response is urgently required to respond to the climate shocks and deteriorating drought-related humanitarian needs.  Under the 751 sanctions regime, there is an exemption clause for humanitarian access.  It could not be expected that the same blanket exemption could be made under the 1267 regime.  Humanitarian access to some of the most vulnerable parts of the country would be severely impeded, he cautioned.  It would also restrict the ability of the Federal Government of Somalia to provide assistance and will only play into al-Shabaab’s narrative.  Any interference in the internal affairs of Somalia could also have serious consequences for regional stability.

For information media. Not an official record.