Somalia - Security Council Open VTC

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22-Feb-2021 02:21:51
Somalia’s leaders must avoid risky ‘winner-take-all’ tactics, break standoff blocking realization of agreed electoral model, Special Representative tells Security Council.

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Worried Violence Could Escalate Further, Delegates Call for Dialogue, Compromise

Somalia’s leaders must pull back from confrontation and avoid risky “winner‑take-all tactics” in efforts to break a sensitive political deadlock over the holding of elections, the top United Nations official in the East African country told the Security Council today during a videoconference meeting, as he urged stakeholders to reach an inclusive agreement, based on the electoral model agreed on 17 September 2020, as soon as possible.

“We are seeing increased brinkmanship, pressure tactics, and tests of strength that can only heighten risks,” said James Swan, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), as he presented the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2021/154). The standoff has blocked implementation of the electoral model agreed by the President and federal member state leaders on 17 September 2020 — one that was endorsed by both houses of Parliament and supported by all other major political actors.

He said tensions have been compounded by questions over the legitimacy of the President’s mandate, following expiry of his constitutional term on 8 February 2021. The Government cites an October 2020 parliamentary resolution permitting the President to remain, but this is contested by others. Meanwhile, violent incidents were reported during protests announced by the opposition Council of Presidential Candidates, on 19 February 2021, while public communication from leaders has become polemical and confrontational, revealing the sense of grievance felt by many.

Recapping efforts to implement the 17 September 2020 formula, he said Federal Government and federal member state leaders met in Dhusamareb from 2 to 6 February 2021, but reached no final agreement on the composition of the electoral management bodies, modalities for selecting representatives from “Somaliland” in federal institutions, or management of elections in the Gedo region of Jubaland State. The Federal Government then convened a Technical Committee of senior Federal Government and federal member state ministers, who met in Baidoa from 15 to 16 February, and subsequently resolved the contentious issues, reaffirmed commitment to the 30 per cent women’s quota in the electoral process, and noted the need for a revised but short new electoral calendar.

Noting that plans for a leaders’ summit in Mogadishu from 18 to 19 February were disrupted by recent events, and that the leaders of Jubaland and Puntland have thus far declined to join, he said he is working with regional and international partners to engage Federal Government and federal member state leaders, key political figures and civil society representatives to find a way forward, based on dialogue and compromise in the national interest.

“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,” he declared. To build trust, the management and oversight of the agreed electoral process must be as impartial and independent as possible, he said, and subject to regular monitoring. Core political freedoms of speech, assembly, organization and access to media also must be ensured.

On the security front, he said Al-Shabaab continues to pose the primary threat and has increased its operational tempo since August 2020. Military gains made by Somali security forces, backed by AMISOM in the Lower Shabelle region in early 2019 and 2020, are being consolidated to enable progress against Al-Shabaab in other areas. Meanwhile, preparatory work has been completed to advance the security transition in 2021. The Federal Government organized meetings of the Security and Justice Committee, as well as the Somalia Partnership Forum in early December 2020 — thereby advancing the Comprehensive Approach to Security and the Mutual Accountability Framework.

Encouraging the Government to hold the Force Generation Conference announced by the Prime Minister as soon as possible, he said the Security Council-mandated independent assessment of the security situation and the role of international partners was submitted on 8 January, and the Somalia Transition Plan was updated and presented by Somalia’s Government to the African Union Peace and Security Council in early February.

The humanitarian situation, meanwhile, remains dire, with the number of people in need of assistance set to increase from 5.2 million in 2020 to 5.9 million in 2021, he said, due to increasing food insecurity, climatic disasters, the worst locust infestation in decades and the effects of COVID-19. He appealed for support to the $1.09 billion Humanitarian Response Plan for 2021, stressing that positive change for Somalis will require institution-building, improvements in governance — including through constitutional reform — investment in health and education, and greater participation by women, youth and marginalized groups.

Francisco Caetano José Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia and Head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), said today’s meeting takes place in the aftermath of armed clashes in Mogadishu, as leaders struggle to overcome a political impasse and pave the way for critical elections. For its part, the African Union has demanded restraint, asked the parties to refrain from any actions that could spark further violence and underlined the importance of fair and transparent democratic elections. It is now crucial for the stakeholders to return to the negotiating table in a spirit of compromise to agree on a credible process for the holding of credible elections in line with the 17 September 2020 agreement.

Noting that the recent clashes do not put that agreement into question, he pointed out that all the parties took part in recent technical discussions. Leaders should come up with a specific date to meet and explore proposals, while examining the underlying causes of the recent violence. Calling upon international partners to support the Somali leaders in such efforts, he said AMISOM continues to deliver on its election-related responsibilities, especially in the provision of election security, training and support.

Turning to the security situation, which remains volatile, he said Al‑Shabaab is attempting to maximize its ability to disrupt the election while building its capacity to carry out attacks. It continues to target aid convoys and civilians, and it is extending its tentacles farther across Somalia’s federal member states. Despite these challenges, as well as the limits imposed by COVID‑19 and seasonal rains, AMISOM has largely been able to contain Al-Shabaab’s activities and has completed various important transition tasks. In accordance with Council resolution 2420 (2018), the Mission is also carrying out duties related to the upcoming elections. Meanwhile, the African Union is working closely with its Somali partners to facilitate the handover of security-related measures.

Emphasizing that the success of Somalia’s transition plan will depend on a well-trained, well-equipped and well-resourced Somali security force, he called for the holding of the Force Generation Conference as soon as possible. He reiterated the importance of the African Union’s ongoing assessment of the situation in Somalia, advocating for that evaluation to become the basis of international support after 2021. Calling for full respect for Somalia’s sovereignty, he went on to spotlight AMISOM’s many achievements in recent years — which have shown that Somalia is “again back on its feet” — and urged the Council not to put those hard-won gains at risk as it reviews the Mission’s mandate later this week.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates expressed regret that the electoral agreement reached in September 2020 by the Federal Government and federal member states has not been fully implemented. Several voiced concern about the eruption of political violence, which could worsen if nothing is done to move beyond the current impasse, calling on leaders to seize the opportunity for dialogue and compromise.

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