Statement by UN envoy James Swan to the Security Council on the situation in Somalia

23 Nov 2020

Statement by UN envoy James Swan to the Security Council on the situation in Somalia

Madam President, Distinguished Members of the Council,

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

I am especially pleased to speak to you today along with the Somali Prime Minister, His Excellency Mohamed Hussein Roble; as well as the Founder and Chair of the Somali Gender Equity Movement, Ms. Zainab Hassan; and the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, my dear friend and colleague Ambassador Francisco Madeira.

We meet as Somalia faces critical decisions:  an electoral process to choose the parliament and president in the coming few months; a security transition so that Somalis can assume lead security responsibility by the end of 2021; and urgent priorities for humanitarian response and economic reforms.

Madam President,

When I last addressed this Council in August, the Somali leadership was meeting to agree a plan for the 2020/21 elections. In September, they reached consensus on an indirect electoral model, ending a two-year political stalemate between the Federal Government and Federal Member States.

The agreed model of voting regrettably fell short of the constitutional requirement for direct universal suffrage election of parliament.  Yet, the agreement reflected wide Somali political consensus and ownership.  In addition to the support of the President and Federal Member State leaders, the indirect model was also endorsed by other key Somali stakeholders, including political parties and civil society, and was ratified by the Federal Parliament.

Going forward, this broad political consensus must now be preserved and indeed deepened as the agreement is implemented.  The agreed process must be conducted in a fair, transparent, broadly accepted and peaceful manner.  And it must be more participatory and inclusive than it was four years ago. We welcome the political leaders’ agreement to ensure the 30 per cent women’s quota for seats in Parliament and we urge full respect for this commitment.

The electoral schedule foresees selection of members of the two houses of the Federal Parliament by the end of December, and election of the Federal President by the new Parliament in February 2021.  Nominations to the electoral management bodies were several weeks behind schedule, and they remain the subject of some contention.  Also pending is finalization of the electoral security plan, to ensure that the elections are as safe and secure as possible and minimise the risk that Al Shabaab may disrupt or influence the process.

In support of these Somali-led efforts, UNSOM plans to contribute to implementation of the electoral agreement, within the scope of its mandate and in collaboration with UNDP, UNSOS and international partners. We will also continue efforts toward universal suffrage elections in the future.  To this end, we urge Somali leaders to prepare consensually a roadmap with clear timelines and benchmarks to ensure one-person-one-vote elections take place in 2024/25.

Madam President,

In September, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo appointed Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Robleh, who subsequently named his Cabinet. The new government has a challenging task before it -- not only to  steer the country through the electoral process, but also to pursue the reform agenda across the political, security and economic spectrum. The UN in Somalia stands ready to support the Government in advancing these national priorities.

I commend Somali leaders for their spirit of compromise in reaching agreement between the Federal Government and Federal Member States. This spirit must now be sustained. Beyond elections, we also urge further progress through consensus on other democratic reforms, including the constitutional review process, and establishment of the Judicial Services Commission, the Human Rights Commission, and Constitutional Court, as examples.

Political dialogue is also key to addressing other pressing priorities, including operations against Al Shabaab, economic and security reforms, and collaboration to tackle the multiple humanitarian challenges facing the country.  We encourage political actors to institutionalize this dialogue among leaders, such as through the newly formed National Consultative Forum.

To promote such dialogue, I have recently begun a series of visits to Federal Member State capitals, joined by SRCC Madeira and representatives of the European Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development.  I understand that Prime Minister Roble has also started a tour of the regions to engage with State leaders to continue dialogue, and I welcome this initiative.

Madam President,

The security situation in Somalia remains of concern, with persistent attacks by Al Shabab, which remains the primary threat to Somalia’s security.  Continued efforts at protecting the Somali people and degrading Al Shabab’s capabilities must be the main objective of the national security forces, as well as AMISOM, and other security partners – in particular, as we enter the sensitive electoral period.

Next year will be a transition year in which Somalia takes lead responsibility on security matters. This requires agreement on a strategic vision for Somalia’s security involving all security stakeholders.  The Federal Government has already started this work as it is drafting an updated Somalia Transition Plan.  It is crucial that this plan address many long-standing challenges -- including the need for realistic operational objectives, credible plans for force generation, and clear coordination structures.   The updated Transition Plan will serve as a baseline for further discussions in the coming months to guide the role of Somali security forces as well as external actors, including AMISOM, the UN, and bilateral security partners.  I welcome the Prime Minster’s announced plan to convene in early December the Executive Committee of the Comprehensive Approach to Security, also known as the Security and Justice Committee.

I pay tribute to the Somali security forces and the African Union Mission in Somalia for their steadfast and courageous pursuit of peace and stability in Somalia. We also welcome the continuing support and commitment from many Member States to the development of Somalia’s rule of law and security sector. It is through collective gains in the security realm that space is created for the political process, governance, and institution-building.

Human Rights and Justice remain at the centre of our work for Somalia’s development. With elections approaching, I underscore my previous calls for the protection of political space, for tolerance of divergent opinions, for respect of free speech and association, and for media freedom.

I reiterate concerns over the recent increase in instances of sexual violence against women and girls, and over the regressive legislation relating to sexual rights and freedoms that have entered the parliamentary process in both Mogadishu and Hargeisa, and which contravene international standards.

Madam President,

Humanitarian needs remain acute in Somalia. The country has been had hit by the triple-shock of COVID-19, flooding and locust infestation. The national trends in COVID-19 cases are broadly favourable, but we must remain vigilant.  I again commend Somali authorities for their rapid response to COVID-19’s outbreak and thank Somali health workers who are on the frontlines to defeat the pandemic.

I welcome the new five-year Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework between the Somali Federal Government and the UN, which will guide UN support for Somali-owned and Somali-led development priorities. The Framework aligns with Somalia’s ninth National Development Plan.  We urge the Government to remain steadfast in its commitment to the reform agenda in order to make progress on the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative benchmarks to reach Completion Point.  We look forward to the upcoming Somalia Partnership Forum announced by the Prime Minister for early December to take stock of progress since last year and agree on priorities for the future.

Madam President,

In closing, let me assure the Council of UNSOM’s ongoing engagement with Somali stakeholders to promote political cooperation in the interest of the country.  Our good offices are aimed at fostering the widest levels of inclusion and consensus possible.

As the country focuses on the electoral process, the UN in Somalia will continue to press for participation by historically underrepresented groups, among them women, youth, and marginalised communities.  They all have much to contribute to peace, stability, and development in their country.

The coming months will set the course of Somalia for the next several years.  At this critical time, I am grateful for the Council’s support as our United Nations team strives to help Somalia’s leaders and people achieve their national priorities.  

Thank you.