Al-Shabaab Expected to Intensify Attacks, African Union Official Warns, Stressing Need to Regain Control of Key Areas from Insurgents
Despite yet another delay in Somalia’s planned elections – the first national polls held since 1969 – the country remained committed to advancing hard-won democratic progress and electing a new President on 30 November, the Security Council heard this morning as it was briefed by top officials from the United Nations, the African Union and the Somali Government.
Michael Keating, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, told the 15-member Council that Somalia’s Federal Indirect Implementation Team had announced yesterday that the electoral process would require an additional 30 days. Parliamentary elections would now take place between 23 October and 10 November and the presidential election was scheduled for 30 November, he said. “What is most critical at this point is that the new extension does not create additional space for manipulation or disruption by spoilers,” he said, emphasizing that the present urgency and momentum must be maintained.
The 2016 electoral process was a novel and exciting experience for a country that had last held national elections more than three decades ago, he said, adding that, while the electoral model was imperfect, its features were critical to Somalia’s aspirations to undertake “one person, one vote” elections in 2020. Among other things, it included the election of a new Upper House on a geographical, not just clan basis; the conduct of elections in at least five locations around the country; and the broadening of the electoral college from just 135 men in 2012 to more than 14,000 citizens – including women and youth.
While the electoral process could mark a positive watershed moment for Somalia, he nevertheless said that he was under no illusions about the challenges ahead and the scope for things to go awry. More broadly, the road to peace and stability would still be a long one. Violence remained a feature of life for too many people in the country, with Al-Shabaab continuing to conduct spectacular attacks against soft targets, notably in Mogadishu.
In that regard, he said the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) remained vital to Somalia’s security and required support in its efforts to take the fight to Al-Shabaab-controlled areas. Noting that the repatriation of an unprecedented number of refugees from the Dadaab camp in neighbouring Kenya had raised anxiety, he warned that a growing number of people – now close to 5 million – were suffering from malnutrition and food insecurity and that multiple human rights violations continued to be reported.
Going forward, the arduous task of establishing capable, trusted Government institutions would be critical, he continued. An important development in that regard had been the emergence of the National Leadership Forum as a key decision-making body, as well as the approval of a new policing model. Noting that the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security planned to begin AMISOM’s transition in October 2018, he said there was no time to lose in building capable, accountable security forces trusted by all Somalis.
Also briefing Council members, via video link from Mogadishu, was Francisco Caetano Jose Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and Head of AMISOM, who said that, on the security front, the regional bloc was working in close cooperation with Somali national forces in preparing for the upcoming elections.
He said that, while the provision of private security personnel during the electoral period had been widely discussed in Mogadishu, it would be impossible given the number of elderly and important people requiring protection. However, it would be possible to ensure collective security, and security forces would be deployed in public buildings, hotels, residential areas and other premises.
He went on to point out that Al-Shabaab continued to strike across central and southern Somalia, and was expected to intensify its activities before the elections. It was critical to disrupt the group’s activities and eventually destroy it, he said, stressing the need to enhance coordination and coherence among international partners. He emphasized the need for the security forces to regain control of a number of towns and villages from the insurgents. For its part, the African Union was committed to supporting peace and stability in Somalia, and to enabling the progress of the Somali security forces as central actors. Calling upon the United Nations to provide logistical support, he said it was necessary to remove Al-Shabaab from the main cities in the north-east.
Following those remarks, Uruguay’s representative said the briefings were not only relevant for Council members, but also for the wider United Nations membership. Welcoming the genuine progress achieved over recent months – including the drafting of the framework for a political transition – he said Somalia was witnessing a decisive and historic moment on the country’s path to becoming a stable, democratic nation. However, that progress could still be lost, he warned, expressing regret that there was news of an electoral delay and appealing strongly to Somali authorities to adhere to the original election dates.
Condemning the constant threat posed by Al-Shabaab, which appeared to be intensifying in the run-up to the election, he said the Somali army needed training in order to ensure that federal security forces were ready to assume greater responsibility. Continued reports of human rights violations were deeply troubling, he added, noting that measures to prevent sexual violations, in particular, remained insufficient.
Notwithstanding the significant commitments made by Somali authorities to protect children, he expressed concern about violations against young people, saying they should be treated primarily as victims. Among other things, he called upon AMISOM, United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and the entire international community to work more closely with national and regional partners to continue to improve the situation in Somalia.
Also addressing the Council, Abdusalam H. Omer, Somalia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Investment Promotion, said the upcoming elections represented a truly historic leap forward for his country’s democratization, and demonstrated clear evidence of the spirit and values of the democracy taking shape. Progress might not be as rapid or smooth as some would have liked, since the country faced the challenges of advancing development and reform initiatives in a complex environment, he said.
With the support of its national security services and AMISOM, he said, Somalia was successfully waging a war against international terrorism, which remained “an evil without purpose and geography” and could only be defeated in partnership across all sectors internationally. Today, Al-Shabaab controlled less than 10 per cent of the country and many of its leaders had recently defected or been killed, he noted.
Emphasizing the need to ensure that the Somali National Security Forces were in a position to take over the country’s entire security responsibilities, he underscored the importance of drawing up an inclusive political agreement on future security arrangements. An urgent build-up for security sector reform was also needed ahead of the planned AMISOM drawdown in 2018.
He acknowledged that delays in the electoral process had raised concerns among Somalia’s partners, but reassured the Council of his Government’s unwavering commitment to holding credible, inclusive elections in 2016. In that regard, he outlined a number of steps and deadlines that would ensure there were no further delays in the electoral process.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:48 a.m.
Source: United Nations.