STATEMENT BY UN ENVOY JAMES SWAN TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL ON THE SITUATION IN SOMALIA

22 February 2021


Madame President, Distinguished Members of the Council,

Thank you for this opportunity to once again update the Council on the situation in Somalia.

I am pleased to appear jointly with my dear colleague, Ambassador Francisco Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission. Let me take this opportunity at the beginning of this session to pay tribute to the commitment and sacrifice of AMISOM forces in Somalia since 2007 alongside courageous Somali Forces.

Today’s meeting of the Council is timely in view of the significant developments in Somalia in recent weeks, and even days. Growing political tensions threaten Somalia’s state-building progress and even security unless they are resolved through dialogue and compromise in the interest of the country. Unfortunately, instead we are seeing increased brinkmanship, pressure tactics, and tests of strength that can only heighten risks.

The political standoff among key Somali leaders has blocked the implementation of the electoral model agreed by the Federal Government of Somalia President and Federal Member State leaders on 17 September 2020. This model was formally endorsed by both houses of Parliament and supported by all other major political actors, but implementation is in dispute. I will return to this point.

Tensions over electoral implementation have now been compounded by questions raised by some political figures over the legitimacy of the president’s mandate following the expiry of his constitutional term on 8 February. The Government cites an October parliamentary resolution permitting the President to remain, but this is contested by others.

Meanwhile, on the morning of February 19, a day of protests announced by the opposition Council of Presidential Candidates, several violent incidents were reported. Although full details are unconfirmed, these incidents reportedly included armed exchanges between government security personnel and security teams employed by the opposition, as well as recourse to live fire by government forces to disperse protestors.

Public communication from key leaders has become increasingly polemical and confrontational, revealing the frustration, mistrust, and sense of grievance felt by many.

Hence, this is a tense moment in Somalia, as both rhetoric and actions are escalating.

Madam President,

In light of the above, let me briefly recap recent efforts to move forward with the implementation of the 17 September electoral model.

At the invitation of the Federal Government, FGS and FMS leaders met in Dhusamareb from 2 to 6 February, and made progress but reached no final agreement on the contentious issues, namely: the composition of the electoral management bodies; the modalities for selecting representatives from “Somaliland” in federal institutions; and the management of elections in the Gedo region of Jubaland State.

Subsequently, the Federal Government convened a technical committee of senior ministers from the FGS and FMS, who met in Baidoa from 15 to 16 February. The Committee announced that it had arrived at technical solutions for the contentious issues, it reaffirmed commitment to the 30 per cent women’s quota in the electoral process, and it noted the need for a revised but short new electoral calendar.

On the basis of the Committee’s work, the Federal Government called for a FGS-FMS leaders’ summit to be held in Mogadishu from 18 to 19 February. Yet, events of recent days have disrupted these plans, and the leaders of Jubaland and Puntland have so far regrettably declined to join the FGS and other FMSes for a summit. Along with other partners, we continue efforts to understand and address the concerns of these two leaders so that they may join the process to advance the 17 September agreement.

In view of this worrying impasse, in recent days I have worked closely, alongside other regional and international partners, to engage FGS and FMS leaders, key political figures, and civil society representatives to urge a way forward based on dialogue and compromise in the national interest. The message from partners has been clear that there should be no partial elections, no parallel processes, and no unilateral actions by Somali leaders. Such approaches would only lead to greater division and the risk of confrontation.

Madam President,

Let me be clear: I remain convinced that the consensus-based 17 September model offers the best available option to proceed quickly to an electoral process for selection of members of parliament, senators, and the president. This would minimize further delays in Somalia’s four-year transition cycle, ensure that the chosen national leaders have a clear mandate and are widely accepted, and allow the country to turn its attention from the current political competition to other vital national priorities in the interest of the people.

WDM EDITORIAL

When a politician doesn’t foresee any accountability for his illegal activities, including not only trying to stay in power after his constitutional mandate had expired, but also using brute force to crush dissent, talking about elections or democracy is unrealistic. Under this circumstances, revolt and rebellion unfortunately become the alternative. What had happened in Mogadishu on February 19th could herald a trend and the new normal in current Somalia’s political conundrum. The country has turned again to the brink of pending disaster.

In these armed clashes, the opposition forces were engaged in provocations too by forcefully occupying parts of security perimeter of the country’s presidency under the command of clan militia warlords, and opposition leaders moving into hotels nearby it just before the start of armed confrontations. Some observers believe that the demonstrators intended to converge at and celebrate in Villa Somalia would they had succeeded in chasing out Mr. Farmaajo as they did with General Siyaad Barre in January 1991.

Last night’s speech by Puntland President in Garowe had exposed an alarming political and security situation in the country. It is not yet too late to take action and prevent looming mayhem in Somalia and beyond.

All parties have to show restraint and pull back from the brink. Friends of Somalia have a role to play in helping mitigate this renewed escalation of political conflict and saving the hard-fought modest gains of Somali political process post-Civil War.

By Warsame Digital Media WDM

This article has been updated since it posting early today.