The Special Representative of UN Secretary-General to Somalia, Michael Keating addressed the security council on Wednesday, highlighting Somalia’s progress despite terrorism, the risk of famine and a stormy political climate.
Keating praised the Somali government for headway in the areas of “financial reform, job creation, inclusive politics, conflict resolution and reform of the security sector,” despite Somalia facing a steep learning curve.
“Somalia is making definite progress, though the risks remain real. It is fortunate to have a government that is committed to reform, to resolving conflicts and to meeting formidable social, economic and security needs of the population.”
Mr. Keating also lauded the government for cooling tensions with the Federal Member States after a very public spat last year, and reaching IMF benchmarks that were set out under the Staff Monitored Programme.
However, Keating warned that heavy-handed politics was a risk to stability, pointing to the violent arrest of opposition figure Abdirahman Abdishakur that lead to the death of five of his bodyguards in mid-December. Days later, the home of Senator Abdi Hassan Awale Qaybdiid, a former militia leader, chief of police, minister and regional head was raided by balaclava-clad men who appeared to be members of Somali security forces. He noted that the recent ouster of Thabit Abdi Mohamed as the Mayor of Mogadishu and Governor of Banaadir has created waves.
“These incidents have highlighted basic problems that need to be addressed, such as inadequate rules and safeguards governing the conduct of politics, including impeachment procedures; blurred roles and lines of accountability of the many security actors; and the perpetuation of corrupt practices and of untraceable money in the political marketplace.” He went on to say that “all Somali actors need to respect the rule of law and resist the use of violence against their political opponents”.
On the humanitarian front, Keating conceded that the task at hand is daunting as the risk of famine continues to loom over Somalia after four consecutive failed rains. He warned that famine was narrowly averted in 2017, thanks to national leadership, decisive action and “historic levels of donor support”.
The recent drought nearly doubled the five-year average, and an estimated 6.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.
“Malnutrition reached emergency levels in many locations and is expected to rise. Drought and conflict have displaced over 2 million people within the country, up to a million of them in the last 12 months, including many children and more than 80,000 pregnant women.”
He went on to say that going forward, its imperative to look at preventative measures that address the root causes of Somalia’s fragility.
In his address to the Security Council, Keating also lauded the recent power-sharing agreement between Galmudug and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a in a ceremony that was presided over by President Farmajo.
The SRSG said that political dialogue was key to resolving conflicts such as the long-standing dispute between Puntland and Somaliland.
“With the support of international partners including many on this Council, I have urged the leaders of Puntland and “Somaliland” to declare a cessation of hostilities, withdraw their forces, restore the status quo ante, and open channels of communication.”
The Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, now in its 12th year of insurgency remains a potent threat “despite or perhaps because it is on the back foot as a result of financial pressures, counter-terrorism operations and air strikes,” said Keating.
Quoting the grim statistics collected in the first Protection of Civilians Report, a total of 2,078 civilians killed and 2,507 injured, the large majority of which are attributable to Al Shabaab.
“Al Shabaab abducted civilians, conducted targeted assassinations and summary executions. In addition, 729 civilians were abducted by Al Shabaab, of whom 403 were released.”
A deadly IED attack on October 14th killed nearly 512 people – nearly all civilians – the death toll marked the largest single death toll in Somalia’s bloody history.
Keating said that troops fighting under the AMISOM banner are still fundamental for security in the country, but AMISOM cannot be a permanent fixture in Somalia’s security plans.
“2018 will require dedicated effort by the Somali leadership, the African Union and international partners to build political acceptability and operational capability of the Somali security sector.”
“This should enable AMISOM gradually to hand over responsibility to Somali security forces, and to enable the federal and state governments, as per the agreements in the National Security Architecture, to exercise a monopoly over the use of force. The current situation whereby security responsibilities are fragmented, often privately controlled and unaccountable is both dangerous and untenable. “
Year of Implementation
Finally, Mr. Keating called on the Federal Government of Somalia, Federal Member States, parliament, clan elders, business and international partners to work in unison to ensure continued progress into 2018.
“I strongly encourage Somali stakeholders to unite to tackle these priorities and to make 2018 a year of implementation,” Keating said.