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SC/14120
24 February 2020
8731st Meeting (PM)

Somalia’s 2020 Elections Will Be Historic Milestone on Long Journey Back to Security, Stability, Special Representative Tells Security Council

Permanent Representative Urges External Actors to Stop Meddling in Internal Affairs, as United States Questions Election Models

One-person-one-vote elections in Somalia later in 2020 will be a historic milestone along that country’s long road back to security, stability and prosperity, briefers told the Security Council today, while emphasizing that success will depend on its Federal Government, federal member states and other stakeholders embracing dialogue to tackle its myriad challenges, including the persistent threat posed by Al-Shabaab.

“There is so much to do in the year ahead,” said James Swan, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).  “Only by working together — as Somalis, as partners and in a spirit of unity and compromise — will progress be made.”  Describing 2020 as a potentially transformative year, he warned that progress on political, security, economic and humanitarian issues is at stake if the lack of consultations between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” and other political leaders drags on.

He went on to state that the upcoming elections will be a critical test of Somalia’s progress.  While the enactment of a new electoral code — which the President signed into law by last week — is an important step, it fails to address many issues, including guarantees that 30 per cent of parliamentary seats will be set aside for women, he noted.  On the security front, he said that with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) committed to reducing its troop strength by the end of this month, the Federal Government must generate the military strength required to combat the terrorist group Al-Shabaab, which retains the ability to mount large-scale attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere.

Also briefing was Francisco Caetano José Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and Head of AMISOM, who agreed that 2020 is crucial in terms of delivering national priorities, including elections, and meeting debt-relief benchmarks.  Urging the international community to remain engaged, he said that multifaceted interactions — including between the Federal Government and federal member states — will unlock the country’s immense capacity for reconciliation.

Expressing concern about the slow generation of Somali security forces, he emphasized that AMISOM’s withdrawal of 1,000 troops by the end of February is a mismatch with needs on the ground.  He urged the Council — which renewed AMISOM’S mandate for one year on 31 May 2019 (see Press Release SC/13828) — to reflect on the reality in the Mission’s theatre of operations and to consider additional measures that would step up the pressure against Al-Shabaab.

A third briefer, Dan Smith of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, warned that floods and drought could undermine peacebuilding efforts in Somalia.  Summarizing the findings of the Institute’s 2019 report on climate change and peace operations, he explained that severe weather events create recruitment opportunities for Al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups.  He went on to recommend a greater focus by UNSOM and the United Nations country team on improving coordination between the Federal Government and humanitarian and security actors, declaring:  “The case of Somalia shows us the future of peacekeeping.”

In the ensuing debate, Council members concurred on the pressing need to enhance dialogue and strengthen Somalia’s ability to confront Al-Shabaab if 2020 is to produce meaningful progress for the Horn of Africa country.

Tunisia’s representative — speaking also on behalf of Niger, South Africa and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — urged the Federal Government and the federal member states to reach a political agreement and build consensus on key national priorities.  Timely and peaceful elections in 2020 are of the utmost importance, he emphasized.  On the security front, he expressed deep concern about the threat posed by Al-Shabaab, reiterating steadfast support for the Somali National Army and calling upon the international community to provide the necessary assistance.  He also called for urgent humanitarian assistance for Somalia in light of the current locust invasion.

The representative of the United States warned, however, that some electoral models under consideration could exclude key communities or provide a pretext for delaying the vote.  He urged the Federal Government and federal member states to work together to keep the elections on track for 2020 and to agree on a practical model for peaceful, timely, inclusive and credible elections.

Somalia’s representative called upon all external actors — especially those in the region mandated by the Security Council — to stop interfering in his country’s domestic affairs.  Somalia should not be defined by what it has been, but what it can be, he emphasized.  He went on to say that insufficient resources are preventing the otherwise courageous Somali military from gaining the edge over its enemies, adding that going forward, the country requires concerted efforts to preserve the gains it has achieved.  “I would like to assure you today that we are bound and will respect the principle of holding elections on time and the peaceful and orderly transfer of power,” he stressed.

Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, Russian Federation, Germany, China, France, Indonesia, Estonia, Viet Nam and Belgium.

The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 4:55 p.m.

Briefings

JAMES SWAN, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), said 2020 could be a transformative year for the country if all stakeholders work together, set aside narrow political interests and strengthen State institutions, security and prosperity.  Noting the lack of consultations between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” and other political leaders, he warned that without the necessary political agreement, the progress achieved so far across the political, security, economic and humanitarian agendas will soon reach their limits.  “I call on Somalia’s leaders, as a matter of urgency, to meet and engage in dialogue on Somalia’s national priorities,” he said.

He went on to state that historic one-person-one-vote elections to be held later in 2020 will be a critical test of Somalia’s progress on State-building.  The new electoral code, recently signed into law by the President, is an important step, but it fails to address many outstanding questions, including the location of constituencies, modalities for voter participation and guarantees that 30 per cent of parliamentary seats will be set aside for women.  He went on to call upon the Federal Parliament, in collaboration with the National Independent Electoral Commission and in consultation with the Federal Government, federal member states and other stakeholders, to resolve those issues urgently.  The voices of women, young people and minorities must be part of an open debate on Somalia’s future, he said, stressing the need for greater efforts towards reconciliation.

Turning to the security situation, he said that despite progress in rebuilding State security institutions, military operations have slowed since mid-2019, explaining that, to date, force generation has not been sufficient to carry out priority operations against Al-Shabaab.  However, the terrorist group retains the ability to carry out large-scale attacks in Mogadishu and in recently recovered areas in the Lower Shabelle administrative region.  The Federal Government must clarify its operational priorities and generate the forces required to degrade Al-Shabaab, defend recovered areas and reopen main supply routes, he stressed.  Recalling that the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is committed to a 1,000-troop reduction in personnel levels by 28 February, as decided by the Council in resolution 2472 (2019), he said the Mission remains essential for security under the current circumstances.  However, it is time to begin discussing a progressive handover of security duties to the Somali authorities in a manner that preserves hard-won gains while achieving greater strategic effect against Al-Shabaab, he added.

On the humanitarian situation, he said vulnerable Somalis still face extreme challenges, with back-to-back droughts, flooding, conflict and insecurity leaving 5.2 million people in need of assistance — and this before the country’s worst locust outbreak in 25 years.  He called upon donors to urgently provide funding and support for the 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan and to get behind the Federal Government’s National Development Plan.  Regional cooperation is also essential, he said, welcoming efforts by the President and regional leaders to resolve differences and strengthen ties.  “There is so much to do in the year ahead,” he said.  “Only by working together — as Somalis, as partners and in a spirit of unity and compromise — will progress be made.”  He went on to underline the need for greater impetus in building consensus around ensuring that key benchmarks for elections, security and relations between the Federal Government and federal member states do not fall further behind schedule.  In conclusion, he said that he looks forward to Somalia’s leaders taking bold steps to that end, and to the United Nations continuing to play its role through full implementation of the mandate authorized by the Council.

FRANCISCO CAETANO JOSÉ MADEIRA, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and Head of AMISOM, briefed by video-teleconference from Addis Ababa, reiterating that 2020 is a crucial year for Somalia in terms of delivering national priorities, including the holding of upcoming elections and meeting debt-relief benchmarks.  The signs are positive so far, despite many challenges, he said, noting that State formation efforts were boosted by the conclusion of the electoral process in Galmudug.  However, this was just one step of many in the right direction, he said, noting that the primacy of politics remains at the forefront of reconciliation efforts, and urging the Galmudug leadership to ensure no stakeholder is excluded.  Urging the international community to continue to engage with Somalia’s people, he said that multifaceted interactions, including between the Federal Government and federal member states, will unlock the country’s immense capacity for national reconciliation.

Turning to the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, he noted that the President signed the electoral law a few days ago and it has entered into effect, although a number of issues must be ironed out for smooth implementation.  The momentum gained over the last two months will continue towards the polls, to be held in the fourth quarter of 2020.  He emphasized the need for security and mobility for voters in order to ensure peaceful elections, saying AMISOM is ready to help in that regard.  Somalia also met some financial debt-relief benchmarks, he noted.  Recent threat assessments demonstrate that Al-Shabaab remains a threat and can still carry out attacks using improvised explosive devices, he said.  AMISOM continues to support the national security forces in fighting Al-Shabaab.  Expressing concern about the slow generation of Somali security forces, he said AMISOM’s withdrawal of 1,000 troops by the end of February is a mismatch with needs on the ground.  Urging the Council to look into that gap and at the reality in AMISOM’s theatre of operations, he urged it to consider additional measures to increase pressure against Al-Shabaab.

DAN SMITH, Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, warned that floods and drought could undermine peacebuilding efforts in Somalia.  Summarizing the findings of the Institute’s report on climate change and peace operations, released in late 2019, he said that severe weather events create recruitment opportunities for Al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups.  On the other hand, tackling the negative effects of climate change on peace operations is a potential opportunity to build a positive relationship between environmental resilience and sustainable peace, he noted.  Somalia, long prone to extreme weather conditions, experiences some of the world’s highest mean annual temperatures, he said, adding that temperatures have been increasing gradually since 1960 and are projected to rise by 3.2 to 4.3 degrees Celsius by the end of the twenty-first century.  Meanwhile, rainfall is erratic, varying widely between seasons and from year to year, he said, noting that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects more rain for Somalia in the coming decades, which will increase the risk of flooding and soil erosion.  The resulting climate uncertainty is having a direct impact on everyday life among Somalis, who depend heavily on agriculture for their livelihoods, he said.

It also intensifies competition for natural resources and generates conflict between herders and farmers, he continued.  Moreover, local conflicts can quickly escalate to the national level, with disagreements over natural resources being absorbed into the country’s larger political dynamics and leading to deadly violence, he cautioned, declaring:  “The evidence is clear that climate-related shocks and stresses can destabilize Somalia’s prospects for peace.”  He went on to recommend that UNSOM and the United Nations country team focus on improving coordination between the Federal Government and humanitarian and security actors.  Meanwhile, preparations for a humanitarian emergency can reduce the impact of future shocks.  He also emphasized the importance of broader regional responses, given the manner in which the negative effects of climate change can cross national boundaries.  He went on to suggest augmenting the capacity of United Nations agencies to assess climate-related security risks while daring to try new responses to changing conditions.  For the wider United Nations system, peacekeepers should be trained in “climate sensitivity”, he said, adding that funding streams should prioritize efforts to ensure climate resilience.  “The case of Somalia shows us the future of peacekeeping,” he said, stressing that taking practical steps today can improve the prospects for peace and security tomorrow.

Statements

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) congratulated Somalia on meeting debt-relief benchmarks and welcomed the recent enactment of the new electoral law.  However, that is only the first step, he added, expressing concern about spoilers who undermine electoral processes.  Several issues remain unresolved, including an amendment to a law that allows political parties to register and ensuring women’s participation, he said, expressing regret that the activities of the National Independent Electoral Commission are restricted.  Concerning security, he noted that Somalia is at a critical juncture, emphasizing the crucial need for AMISOM’s drawdown of 1,000 troops to take place this month.  He went on to warn that the next discussion in the Council will be more difficult without progress on building consensus and on elections.

RODNEY M. HUNTER (United States) congratulated Somalia on its commitment to implementing fiscal reforms towards debt relief, while urging the Federal Government and federal member states to agree on financial accountability and revenue-sharing principles.  He went on to state that some electoral models under consideration for 2020 and 2021 are not practical, cautioning that they could exclude key communities, or provide a pretext for delaying the vote.  He urged the Federal Government and federal member states to work together to keep the elections on track for 2020 and to agree on a practical model for a peaceful, timely, inclusive and credible vote.  Efforts to provide the security forces with the capacity to hold areas freed from Al-Shabaab are tremendously valuable, but the deployment of troops to a politically motivated offensive in the Gedo region of Jubaland is unacceptable, he emphasized, noting that it diverts resources from the agreed road map for security operations.  It is imperative that security services of the Federal Government and federal members states focus on fighting Al-Shabaab rather than engaging in armed conflict with each other to resolve political disputes, he stressed.

JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic), welcoming the enactment of the electoral law, also expressed concern over the stalemate between the Federal Government and federal member states.  Emphasizing the need to support national reconciliation, he also welcomed Somalia’s improved bilateral relations with neighbouring countries, including Kenya.  Taking note of the briefing on the link between climate change and security, he said those displaced by conflict suffer the effect of climate change to a disproportionate extent.  He went on to condemn the December 2019 Al-Shabaab attack that killed 90 people in Mogadishu, while stressing his recognition of the roles of UNSOM and AMISOM.  He also expressed hope that the forthcoming elections will turn a new page for Somalia.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said his delegation is pleased to see tangible progress in the lead-up to elections in Somalia later in 2020, including last week’s adoption of the electoral law, consultations to update the Federal Constitution and the Federal Government’s efforts to normalize relations in the wider Horn of Africa.  At the same time, much remains to be done, he said, calling upon stakeholders to resume dialogue and on the authorities to build bridges with Somaliland and Puntland.  Expressing serious concern about the security challenge posed by Al-Shabaab and its use of increasingly sophisticated weapons, he reiterated his delegation’s call for a briefing by the United Nations Mine Action Service on the question of improvised explosive devices.  Emphasizing the need for joint efforts to build a unified national security architecture, he said AMISOM is playing an extremely important role in fighting Al-Shabaab, urging the international community to continue steps to strengthen African peacekeeping units and the Somali National Army.

JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany) noted that credible, free and fair elections will be key for building a democratic State.  However, the electoral code leaves many unresolved questions that must be answered through broad political consensus, he emphasized.  Consultations between the Federal Government and federal member states must resume quickly and take place regularly, he said.  Commending progress in the security sector, he said it is crucial to remain on that path and to implement reforms in a coherent and coordinated manner.  He went on to say that climate change challenges implementation of UNSOM’s mandate and the Council must take it into account as a factor relevant to peace and security.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) acknowledged the positive progress on national reconstruction, while noting, however, that persistent challenges such as terrorism and natural disasters require the international community’s ongoing attention and support, alongside full respect for Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  AMISOM should be supported through stable and predictable financing, the strengthening of the national security forces and deeper cooperation among the United Nations, the African Union and others to resolve regional issues, he emphasized.  He went on to recommend a sustainable development approach to food security as well as stepped-up international assistance in the areas of education, health and infrastructure to make the country self-reliant as soon as possible.  China’s in-kind assistance to Somalia includes the provision of mosquito nets, he added.

ANTOINE IGNACE MICHON (France) described the stalled dialogue between the Federal Government and some federal member states, such as Jubaland and Puntland, as obstacles to Somalia’s political success.  While welcoming the electoral law’s enactment, he expressed concern about several issues, such as the definition of constituencies and how to implement the 30 per cent quota for women, emphasizing that it is imperative to broaden the democratic space to allow freedom of expression and assembly.  It is also important to implementing the plan for AMISOM’s handover of security responsibilities to the national security force, he said, calling upon the European Union to continue its support.  Concerning climate change, he urged the United Nations to carry out an analysis of climate-related security risks around the world and recommend conflict-prevention measures to Member States and United Nations country teams.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said that overcoming the political impasse will require strong cooperation between the Federal Government and the federal member states, adding that they must resolve their differences through dialogue.  Elections remain a priority, he said, calling for the adoption of legislation to ensure the electoral timeline is met.  Condemning recent attacks by Al-Shabaab, he welcomed the completion of the joint threat assessment of security conditions on the ground, emphasizing the need to continue to assess the implications of the planned mission drawdown so as to ensure that gains already made will not be reversed.  He went on to reiterate the importance of accelerated and coordinated international assistance to support the generation of forces and build the capacity of Somali forces to take over security responsibilities.  Turning to the humanitarian situation, he urged international partners to provide much-needed relief and assistance.

TAREK LADEB (Tunisia), speaking on behalf of Niger, South Africa and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, urged the Federal Government and federal member states to reach a political agreement and build consensus on key national priorities.  A constructive and inclusive dialogue will enable Somalis to adequately address the range of political, security, humanitarian and development challenges it faces, he noted, echoing the Secretary-General’s appeal that national leaders consider instituting a dialogue mechanism.  The timely and peaceful holding of elections in 2020, as identified in the Mutual Accountability Framework, is of utmost importance for progress to continue, he emphasized.  On the security situation, he expressed deep concern over the persistent terrorist threat posed by Al-Shabaab and reiterated steadfast support for the Somali National Army and its partners.  He called upon the international community to provide the necessary assistance to Somali authorities in terms of force generation and capacity-building, stressing that any reconfiguration or drawdown of AMISOM should be based on conditions on the ground and not lead to a security vacuum that might that terrorists might exploit.  He went on to urge the international community to mobilize resources to replenish the trust fund for AMISOM, as well as the trust fund to support the Somali security forces, and called for urgent humanitarian assistance for Somalia in light of the current locust invasion.

GERT AUVÄÄRT (Estonia) said dialogue between the Federal Government and federal member states is crucial to advancing national priorities.  Urging leaders to take immediate steps to restore ties and consider instituting a mechanism for building consensus and dialogue, he emphasized that timely, credible and peaceful elections must remain the first priority.  While welcoming the enactment of the electoral law, he expressed concern over the framework governing the elections, in particular gaps in the law that must be addressed.  Other questions hinge on the definition of constituencies, and the management of seats for Benadir and Somaliland, he said, stressing that 30 per cent female representation must be enshrined in legislation.  He went on to state that AMISOM’s troop drawdown must be carried out in accordance with threat assessments on the ground.  He also called for addressing conflict-related sexual violence, urging Parliament to pass the Sexual Offences Bill.

DINH NHO HUNG (Viet Nam) said cautious optimism is required since traditional and emerging threats to stability and development remain a serious concern, largely due to attacks by Al-Shabaab and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  Meanwhile, there is a need to better synchronize relations between the Federal Government and federal member states in the interest of implementing major reforms at a time when Somalia faces climate-change threats and a locust infestation that affect national food security.  Condemning Al-Shabaab and ISIL for continued violence in Mogadishu, he said more counter-terrorism efforts are needed, including in tackling the flow of weapons to those groups.  In light of rapid shifts from severe drought to flooding and other weather-related crises, there is a need to address deep-rooted economic issues, including in agricultural development, he emphasized.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), Council President for February, spoke in his national capacity, saying his delegation understands the complexity involved in building a federal system.  Noting Somalia’s progress on security-sector reform and electoral preparations, he emphasized, however, that without domestic political dialogue, solutions will be incomplete.  “Time is of the essence” in keeping to the timetable for presidential elections.  He went on to encouraging the Federal Government to widen the democratic space for women, young people, and the displaced, and to resolve tensions associated with regional elections in Galmudug and Jubaland.  Noting that insufficient dialogue between the Federal Government and some federal member states is having a negative impact on AMISOM’s projected exit, he stressed that Al-Shabaab remains the primary threat to Somalia’s security and stability, adding that deployment of the national army is crucial to containing the threat.  Thanks to the partial lifting of the embargo, the national authorities are now in a position to acquire the weapons they need, he said, adding that AMISOM can improve its effectiveness by taking climate change into account.

ABUKAR DAHIR OSMAN (Somalia) paid tribute to the 82 people killed by terrorists at the X-control junction in Mogadishu in December, emphasizing that such desperate actions will not diminish Somalia’s quest for peace.

He went on to state that in the three years since taking office, the Federal Government has overcome considerable obstacles in embarking upon a flagship economic recovery agenda.  Today, the goal of re-engaging with international financial institutions is within reach, and efforts are under way to restructure and validate the external debt, he said.  Welcoming the announcements by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank on Somalia’s eligibility for debt relief under the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative, he pledged to see the related reforms through to their conclusion, pointing out that they will open the country to foreign direct investment and diversify the economy.  He also outlined a series of private sector development efforts and security-sector reform.

One of the greatest successes to date has been the launch of a cashless, auditable, trackable and verifiable resource-management system by the Somali National Security Forces.  Direct investment in the security forces is also the best way to combat the threat posed by Al-Shabaab, he continued, adding:  “We have courageous, committed men and women in uniform willing to protect their people against this brutal enemy.”  However, resource shortages continue to prevent them from gaining a military edge over their enemies, he said, noting that Operation Badbaado recently demonstrated the capability of the Somali forces, when paired with strong support from international partners, helping to push terrorists out of their hideouts in preparation for wider “clear and hold” operations.

The Somali National Army has also begun to play a role in supporting peacebuilding efforts, including within the context of the inter-communal conflict in Tawfiq/Af Barwaaqo, he said.  The Government supported the ceasefire and peacemaking process launched by community elders, and is monitoring the situation closely through early-warning mechanisms.  As Somalia enters a new and critical phase of its democratization, the country will require concerted efforts at both the domestic and international levels to preserve gains already achieved, he emphasized, while outlining a range of social reforms, cultural preservation efforts and inclusive political developments across the country.

As for the wider region, he declared:  “The region can best succeed with more cooperation and less interference,” noting that his country plays a leading role in the Horn of Africa’s diplomatic initiatives, which have the potential to attract investors and mitigate destabilization.  Somalia therefore calls upon all external actors — especially those in the region mandated by the Security Council — to cease their interference in Somalia’s domestic affairs and support its hard-won gains instead.  Turning briefly to discussions on the elections, he said the Government has signed a new electoral model into law following approval by both houses of Parliament.  “I would like to assure you today that we are bound and will respect the principle of holding elections on time and the peaceful and orderly transfer of power,” he said, urging partners not to define Somalia by what it has been, but what it can be.

For information media. Not an official record.