Permanent Representative Faults Arms Embargo for Limiting Security Forces while Giving Extremist Group Comparative Advantage
The tasks of restoring cooperation between Somalia’s two tiers of government and denying Al-Shabaab the space to prepare and launch its attacks are vital for the country’s progress, senior officials told the Security Council today.
The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) was among three experts briefing the 15-member Council, which had before it the latest report of the Secretary-General on Somalia (document S/2019/393). He recalled the crisis that faced Somalia at the beginning of 2019, noting the mortar attack on the United Nations compound on 1 January and the political crisis resulting from the expulsion of Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, on the same day. “We are certainly in a better place than we were at the beginning of the year,” he said, adding that mandate implementation is back on track, particularly in preparing for the 2020 elections, the constitutional review, building police capacity and contributing to the planning for ongoing security operations.
Despite the many challenges, he continued, Somalia remains on a positive trajectory, including in the economic and security sectors. For instance, biometric registration of all Somali National Army soldiers ensures that their salaries are disbursed directly into their bank accounts, he said, explaining that this helps to fight corruption. He said the Federal Government has launched military operations in the Lower Shabelle region to reverse the recent increase in the number of Al-Shabaab attacks, which remain a serious challenge. He emphasized the importance of Parliament moving ahead on bills that are “absolutely essential” for the political road map to stay on track.
Also briefing was the Special Representative of the Chairperson for Somalia and Head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), who reported that progress on the dialogue between the Federal Government and the federal member states is increasing. In addition, the Somali National Army has retaken some of Al-Shabaab’s strongholds, but the group remains a potent threat with the ability to recruit troops and collect funding. AMISOM, however, is registering progress in implementing the transition plan endorsed by the African Union Peace and Security Commission and the Security Council, he said, adding that it has already handed over responsibility to Somali security forces in Mogadishu Stadium, and completed a drawdown of 1,000 troops, with a view to making its final exit guided by its partners.
A third briefer, the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that Somalia’s humanitarian situation remains among the most protracted in the world. The Humanitarian Response Plan for 2019 identified 4.2 million Somalis, one third of the total population, in need of life-saving assistance. Expressing concern over the impact of the ongoing drought and the situation of internally displaced persons, she said acute food insecurity has risen by 10 per cent since February and more than 2.6 million people remain internally displaced. Civilians, who have borne the brunt of ongoing armed conflict and violence, remain exposed to targeted and indiscriminate attacks, she said, underlining that Somalia must develop sufficient capacity to protect civilians.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members stressed the need to provide coordinated support for building up the capacity of Somalia’s security forces. South Africa’s representative called for ongoing implementation of a comprehensive approach to security, with joint planning by AMISOM, the Federal Government, UNSOM, UNSOS and international partners. It is imperative that the Federal Government and the federal member states resolve their differences through sustained and inclusive dialogue, he added.
The representative of the United States encouraged Somalia to engage with the Panel of Experts servicing the Sanctions Committee concerning Somalia, emphasizing that his country will not support lifting sanctions without Somalia’s full participation with the Panel.
Somalia’s representative expressed his condolences for today’s attacks in Mogadishu, saying his country is more determined than ever to combat “the menace of faceless, borderless international terrorism”. However, Somalia cannot implement the transition plan effectively “with one hand tied to our back” due to the long-standing arms embargo, he said. He expressed regret that decisions made at United Nations Headquarters continue to have a negative impact on the capabilities of Somalia’s security forces, thereby giving Al-Shabaab a comparative advantage.
On the political front, he said Somalia has demonstrated that its lawmakers can debate contentious issues in a pragmatic manner. This month alone, the Government succeeded in getting petroleum industry legislation through the lower house of Parliament, and the Cabinet approved a new draft election law, reflecting the Government’s commitment to inclusive politics as well as the promotion of human rights. He went on to stress the urgent need to address the humanitarian situation and to invest in long-term solutions leading to sustainable development.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, France, Peru, Poland, Dominican Republic, Belgium, Russian Federation, Germany and Indonesia.
The meeting began at 3:07 p.m. and ended at 5:34 p.m.
RAISEDON ZENENGA, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), spoke by video-teleconference from Mogadishu, saying that the Mission began the new year facing a security crisis arising from the mortar attack on the United Nations compound on 1 January and a political crisis resulting from the expulsion of Special Representative Nicholas Haysom on the same day. “The two incidents severely disrupted the Mission’s engagement with the Federal Government of Somalia,” he said, noting that the incidents also left the Mission’s staff deeply demoralized. UNSOM immediately prioritized the safety and security of its staff and, together with the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) and the United Nations country team, took measures to provide secure accommodation and a more secure working space for staff. A lasting solution to the threat will only come from denying Al-Shabaab the space and opportunities to prepare and launch attacks, he said, adding that the United Nations and international partners are working together to enable Somali forces to dominate mortar-launching areas.
“We are certainly in a better place than we were at the beginning of the year,” he continued, pointing out that mandate implementation is back on track, particularly in preparing for the 2020 elections, the constitutional review process, building police capacity, and contributing to the planning for ongoing security operations. Despite the many challenges, Somalia remains on a positive trajectory, including in the economic and security sectors, he reported. For instance, biometric registration of all Somali National Army soldiers was completed on 3 March and all 16,000 registered soldiers are now receiving their salaries directly into their bank accounts. “This has cut out middle men, reduced corruption and ensures regular payment of salaries.” The Federal Government has also launched military operations in Lower Shabelle region to reverse the recent increase in Al-Shabaab attacks. In an unprecedented development, he reported, current military operations have catalysed joint planning and systematic generation of capable, accountable, acceptable and affordable Somali Army units.
Technical preparations for universal suffrage elections in 2010 are also making progress, he continued. The Federal Cabinet has approved the draft Political Parties Bill and the Electoral Bill and submitted them to Parliament, he said, emphasizing that their adoption is absolutely essential to keeping the political road map on track. Concerning progress on human rights, he said federal authorities have completed investigations into the killing of civilians during last December’s elections. This week, the Federal Parliament also ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The disputed electoral processes in Galmudug and Jubaland, scheduled for July and August, have become a source of concern, he said. “As was the case in South West State last year, the risk of violence is very high,” he warned, urging federal and regional authorities to draw lessons from South West State and to avoid violence when managing disputes. He went on to express concern over deteriorating relations between Somalia and Kenya arising from their maritime boundary dispute. “It has implications for Somalia’s State-building and peacebuilding efforts,” he said.
FRANCISCO CAETANO JOSE MADEIRA, Special Representative of the Chairperson for Somalia and Head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), said that Somalia today witnesses encouraging signs of political engagement, adding that the country’s entire political class recently met in Puntland. Dialogue between the Federal Government and the federal member states is increasing and Somalia, with AMISOM’s support, is making progress in other areas, including constitutional review and electoral reform. A draft electoral law has been submitted to Parliament with a view to final adoption in the coming months, he said, adding that progress has also been made on voter registration towards the successful holding of elections.
AMISOM’s new mandate covers delivery of a support package, including training of trainers, to enhance national capacity for electoral security, he continued, welcoming the appointment of an official in charge of a federal electoral security taskforce. Al-Shabaab remains a threat, but the Somali National Army has retaken some of their strongholds, with AMISOM’s support, he said. In one town, 90 per cent of the population have already returned home and quick-impact projects are being delivered. The town’s recovery represents the overall success of AMISON and its partners, he said, expressing hope that more areas will be liberated from the extremist group.
He cautioned, however, that Al-Shabaab remains a potent threat with the ability to recruit troops and collect funding. It is also important to remain vigilant over the presence of ISIL, which might be exploiting the shift of Al-Shabaab’s geographical focus. AMISOM is registering progress in implementing the transition plan endorsed by the African Union Peace and Security Commission and the Security Council, he said, adding that it has already handed over responsibility to Somali security forces in Mogadishu Stadium, and completed a drawdown of 1,000 troops, with a view to a final exit guided by the Peace and Security Commission and the Security Council. AMISOM has already completed reconfigurations in three sectors and will do the same for the remaining sectors in the coming months, he said, requesting that the Council consider maintaining AMISOM’s current troop level before moving on to the second phase of the transition plan.
URSULA MUELLER, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that Somalia’s humanitarian situation remains among the most protracted in the world. The Humanitarian Response Plan for 2019 identified 4.2 million Somalis, one third of the total population, in need of life-saving assistance and protection. This marked a decline in needs from 2017, when famine was averted, raising hope that resilience activities led by the Government and development partners could make further gains. However, current humanitarian indicators across the country are indicating a deterioration, she said.
There are three areas of concern, she said, citing the impact of the ongoing drought, the situation of internally displaced persons and protection. At this point in the season, any rainfall will be too little and too late to reverse the drought’s impact. Indeed, acute food insecurity has gone up by 10 per cent since February, she said, noting that the repetitive nature of climatic shocks is a stark reminder that Somalia is becoming increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. With more than 2.6 million internally displaced persons, Somalia ranks fourth in the world, she said, adding that displacement continues to be driven by ongoing armed conflict, climate shocks and the search for livelihood opportunities.
Somali civilians have borne the brunt of ongoing armed conflict and violence, she said, noting that they are exposed to targeted attacks and indiscriminate attacks. It is essential that Somalia develop sufficient capacity to protect civilians, she stressed, emphasizing that responding to the worsening humanitarian situation with life-saving interventions and protection remains a priority focus. However, progress in State-building and security, as well as greater investment in development, are essential to lifting Somalia out of humanitarian need, she stressed.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said that restoring cooperation with the United Nations and the international community is critical, noting that “Somalia needs the guidance and technical capability”. Applauding the bravery of AMISOM and the efforts of the African Union, she said all partners must work coherently together to achieve success. The next 12 months will be critical to progress on political reform, she said, emphasizing that the political agreements between the Federal Government and the federal member states, particularly on constitutional review, are essential. Turning to the humanitarian situation, she said early-warning indications seen are in some ways worse than those from two years ago.
TANANA JOHANNES MPANYANE (South Africa) emphasized the need for sustained and coordinated international support to build up the capacity of Somalia’s security forces. He called for ongoing implementation of a comprehensive approach to security, with joint planning by AMISOM, the Federal Government, UNSOM, UNSOS and international partners, among others. Stressing the imperative of sustained and inclusive dialogue for the Federal Government and federal member states to resolve their differences, he said there is also need to resolve the current stalemate between the two houses of the Federal Parliament. He applauded UNSOM’s assistance to the Somali authorities in promoting the participation of women and young people in State-building and peacebuilding, and urged the international community to support the Somali 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan.
JONATHAN COHEN (United States) strongly condemned recent attacks by Al‑Shabaab while noting the progress under way through political and constitutional reform efforts. The transfer of security responsibility from the African Union to Somali national forces is essential, he said, adding that, to that end, all parties must coordinate closely to avoid security gaps that can be exploited by nefarious actors. He urged coordination between various United Nations offices to ensure peace during the upcoming elections period. On the arms embargo, he encouraged Somalia to engage with the Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts, emphasizing that the United States will not support lifting sanctions without Somalia’s full participation with the Panel of Experts. The ongoing humanitarian crisis facing millions of Somalis is particularly concerning, he said, pledging that the United States will continue to provide support and assistance.
YAO SHAOJUN (China) said the overall situation in Somalia remains complex and called upon the Security Council and the international community to provide better support and assistance. “We should fully respect and maintain Somalia’s national ownership of its domestic affairs,” he added. Strengthening coordination and communications with the Federal Government is critical, as is supporting efforts of the African Union to help in the maintenance of peace and security in Somalia. The country still faces threats from Al‑Shabaab, and the international community should provide stable and predictable financial support to enable Somalia to fight the group. The international community must also remain focused on increasing humanitarian assistance to Somalia, he said, adding that all international partners must honour their commitments and provide assistance to the country.
GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Cote d’Ivoire) welcomed the positive movement of the Federal Government and the federal member states towards reconciliation as well as the economic growth achieved thanks to various measures, including expansion of the tax base. Concerning security, he said Al-Shabaab continues to pose a threat and condemned the group’s attacks. Emphasizing the need to promote human rights since civilians are increasingly becoming victims of atrocities, he also warned against violence and sexual abuse of children. Welcoming the Prime Minister’s pledge to improve the human rights situation, he urged Member States to heed the Secretary-General’s call to address the needs of 4.2 million people in Somalia for 2019.
JUAN MBOMIO NDONG MANGUE (Equatorial Guinea) welcomed the progress made by the Federal Government and the federal member states, while also expressing concern that two chambers of Parliament stopped cooperating. Urging international and regional organizations, including the United Nations and the European Union, to support major programmes initiated by the Federal Government, he also called for more prominent participation by women in politics and other fields. He also welcomed the efforts of Somalia and Kenya to normalize relations, and applauded UNSOM for providing strategic support for Somalia and AMISOM on peacebuilding and State-building in the areas of governance, security-sector reform, and constitutional review.
NAWAF A. S. A. ALAHMAD (Kuwait) expressed concern that one third of Somalia’s population requires assistance, recalling that the Council expressed support for the country last month by extending AMISOM’s mandate. Applauding the significant progress made by the Federal Government, he also welcomed the accelerated implementation of the transition plan and the establishment of a legal framework for elections. Emphasizing that Al-Shabaab remains the main threat to Somalia’s national security, he condemned the extremist group’s recent attacks targeting the United Nations compound. Such incidents demonstrate the need to ensure AMISOM’s effectiveness and for the State to regain its overall control. This is particularly important in terms of implementing political agreements, he said, stressing that the international community has a responsibility to help Somalis rebuild a State.
SAMER MELKI (France) expressed concern over the delay in implementing the transition plan and in reintegrating regional forces. Emphasizing the essential need for constructive dialogue between the Federal Government and the federal member states, he said that when there is political will, real progress is possible. For the security transition to succeed, AMISOM must continue its reconfiguration in support of the transition plan, he said, adding that the Mission’s work in the south of Mogadishu is an example of what good cooperation means to the transition plan. The idea is not to withdraw troops from particularly sensitive areas but from areas that have been secured, he added. He went on to stress that the European Union cannot continue to finance the bonuses paid to AMISOM soldiers by itself. He also asked the briefers about the prospects for integrating the transition plan into the national security architecture, and whether the African Union has any intention to seek funding from new donors to finance AMISOM.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said his delegation expects that reforms will be implemented, including in the areas of security and justice. Applauding economic growth and praising the Government’s financial management, he nevertheless pointed out that the majority of the people still lack basic services. Only through cooperation and reconciliation can Somalia respond to challenges, he said, stressing the necessity of active participation by women in the country’s political, social and economic life. Noting with concern Al-Shabaab’s increased use of explosive devices, he expressed support for the joint review team’s proposal to keep AMISON’s troop strength at the current level, bearing in mind the humanitarian consequences of not doing so.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said the growing number of Al-Shabaab attacks and the increased presence of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in Somalia are deeply worrying. Poland is also concerned about the stalemate between the Federal Government and the federal member states, she said, noting that it puts the gains made to date at risk and threatens crucial reforms. She called upon all political actors to engage in constructive dialogue, with foreign and regional actors extending impartial support for national reconciliation. Expressing concern about reports of human rights violations not only by Al-Shabaab but also by Government and regional forces as well as clan militia, she called for tougher policies to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers.
Ms. MORRISON (Dominican Republic), noting the stalemate between the Federal Government and the federal member states, said progress on this front is vital for national reconciliation. Welcoming the draft electoral law, she said women’s participation must be one of its key objectives, and at least 30 per cent of seats in the 2020 elections should go to women. Noting that Somalia’s youth unemployment rate is among the world’s highest, she expressed concern that young people are at risk of being recruited by extremist groups and joining piracy groups. She also called for the release of children involved in armed conflict and for granting them amnesty.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) took note of positive developments, including the meeting of federal and regional leaders earlier this month. Noting that his own country is governed under a federal system, he stressed the importance of strong relations between the Federal Government and the federal member states. He went on to emphasize the need for efforts to raise international support, especially bilateral cooperation programmes, to move in the same direction.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) noted with concern Al-Shabaab’s infiltration of cities using explosives they produced themselves, such as those used in the recent attack in Nairobi, saying they pose a threat to the region. Countering it is a top priority, he added. Concerning the national security architecture, he said the gradual transition of security responsibility should take place in accordance with the existing plan and developments on the ground. AMISOM’s reconfiguration should go hand-in-hand with Somali reforms. He went on to emphasize that, with elections set for 2020, it is unwise to carry out an abrupt troop reduction. Transformation of the Horn of Africa countries and the establishment of good neighbourliness will only be possible if Somalia’s sovereignty is respected, he emphasized, warning against foreign intervention. Any new Special Representative should be guided by this principle, he added.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) said federalism can work where there is a strong federal Government and strong federal states. It is unfortunate that their first meeting seeking reconciliation did not yield the expected results, he said. Regarding the protection of women and children as well as sexual violence in conflict, he said the Government must strengthen the legal framework to prosecute perpetrators. The impact of the drought and the number of people in need of assistance are striking, he said, stressing that the impact of climate change must be one of the considerations when devising future mandates.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), Council President for May, spoke in his national capacity, saying that the international community’s continued and proactive engagement is essential for peace and stability in Somalia. Welcoming the commitment of the Federal Government and the United Nations to strengthen cooperation, he said their relationship must always be guided by the fundamental principles of sovereignty, national ownership and mutual response. He went on to describe the strengthening of UNSOM’s mandate in support of the upcoming elections as a step in the right direction, especially in light of the political impasse between the Federal Government and the federal member states threatening progress in key political and security sectors. Noting that Al-Shabaab is carrying out almost daily attacks in Mogadishu, he said it is high time to effectively cut that group from the sources of its weapons and financing. Given the situation, AMISOM’s continued presence and its need for predictable and sustainable funding cannot be overstated, he emphasized. He went on to express concern that the 2019 Somalia Humanitarian Response Plan is critically under-funded. “The international community clearly has no magic wand to resolve the Somali situation, but it could — and obviously should — do more to alleviate humanitarian suffering,” he said, urging all parties to respect international humanitarian law and remove all impediments to the delivery of relief supplies.
ABUKAR DAHIR OSMAN (Somalia) expressed his condolences for today’s attacks in Mogadishu, saying his country is more determined than ever to combat “the menace of faceless, borderless international terrorism”. In two years, Somalia has witnessed transformational progress and thanks to strong political will, is on track to fulfilling key benchmarks that it set for itself. Among positive developments are a record level of tax revenues and the biometric registration of public security officers, he said, adding that timely salary payments are a way to combat corruption. While significant gains have been made against Al‑Shabaab in the past eight weeks, including the retaking of the strategic towns of Sabiid and Bariire, the group remains a threat, he said. However, Somalia cannot effectively implement its transition plan “with one hand tied to our back” due to the long-standing arms embargo, he said, expressing regret that decisions made at United Nations Headquarters continue to have a negative impact on the capabilities of his country’s security forces, giving Al-Shabaab a comparative advantage.
Turning to the political front, he said Somalia has demonstrated that its lawmakers can debate contentious and sensitive issues in a pragmatic and mature manner. This month alone, the Government succeeded in getting petroleum industry legislation through the lower house of Parliament, he said, noting that the law includes a revenue-sharing formula agreed with the federal member states. Meanwhile, the Cabinet has approved a new draft election law, reflecting the Government’s commitment to inclusive politics, as well as the promotion of human rights. Emphasizing that investing in youth is the most effective way to rebuild the nation and counter the ideology of violent extremist groups, he encouraged United Nations agencies to train and recruit more locally. He went on to stress that the humanitarian situation must be addressed urgently, alongside investment in long-term solutions leading to sustainable development. “By taking a comprehensive, prevention-oriented focus, we can together strengthen the nexus between humanitarian and development assistance,” he said.
Mr. MADEIRA, Head of AMISOM, said it is essential to support the Somali national security forces, adding that the Government’s presence allows it to “win hearts and minds”. As for implementation of the transition plan, he said the transitional drawdown should be gradual in order to ensure that gains are not lost. AMISOM will be guided by the evolving situation and stands ready to support developments on the ground, he added.
Mr. ZENENGA, Deputy Head of UNSOM, cautioned that as long as there is no restoration of cooperation between the federal member states and Federal Government leaders, it will be difficult to schedule a meeting between them. Going forward, the international community must focus on key priorities that will ensure progress, he emphasized, adding: “This is what we call the must-not-fail priorities.” The restoration of cooperation between the two tiers of government and passage of the electoral law are also vital.