6701st Meeting (PM)
Also Hears from African Union’s Peace and Security Commissioner, Ministers from South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Azerbaijan on Next Steps at Time of ‘Real Opportunity’
As the Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in Somalia, it was told that it was now time for the international community to make a vital investment to nurture the fragile peace process, help the Transitional Federal Government establish authority throughout the country, build security and rule-of-law institutions, and expand the presence of the African Union.
During a meeting addressed by African Union dignitaries, Government Ministers from the region, and Council members, B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that the Government’s efforts at building a consensus for reconciliation were slowly gaining ground, despite the serious challenge by extremists. It was important to provide the practical means to help the Government become more cohesive, strengthen its ability to address security risks, carry out reconstruction and development, and generate revenue.
All elements of a political, security and development strategy were in place, he said, adding that the focus now was on ensuring completion of the final draft of the constitution in the coming months, followed by the selection of a new parliament. That ambitious timetable required a “full buy-in and determination” by the Somalis and the international community. He reiterated that there was consensus, “both inside and outside Somalia”, and that there would be no extension of the transition period, set to conclude in August.
The Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union said “We cannot hide from the fact that, so far, the international community has yet to fully assume its responsibility in Somalia.” Indeed, he said, the world’s belated, partial and inadequate response had hardly kept pace with developments. Neither anticipating challenges nor moving proactively to avert them, the international community had failed to seize opportunities to further peace and reconciliation in Somalia, and to provide support that was truly commensurate with the challenges.
It was against that background, he explained, that the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) had decided to pursue a critical approach to enhancing the capacity of AMISOM and Government forces. To that end, he reported that a strategic concept for the Mission’s future operations had been endorsed by the African Union Peace and Security Council in January. It provided for, among other things, an increase in the level of United Nations-supported AMISOM uniformed personnel from 12,000 to 17,731.
There was an opportunity today to “learn from past experiences and shortcomings, to turn around the situation in Somalia for the greater good of its long-suffering people and in support of regional stability and international security,” he said, calling on the international community “to do more to enable us to cover the remaining ground on our long journey towards lasting peace, reconciliation and security in Somalia”.
The Chair of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, Kenya’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that the Union’s resolve to turn Somalia around had been unwavering since the start of the crisis there, despite the wide range of challenges. Efforts of its member States had been “supported immensely” by Council decisions to support AMISOM and the training of the Somali security forces. Gains that now boded well for Somalia included not only developments inside the country, but also the cooperative effort between the troop contributing countries, regional countries, the Union and the United Nations towards a new strategic concept for AMISOM.
Significant in the assessment was the need to raise the authorized troop level to more than 17,000 and the imperative to provide force enablers, multipliers and logistical support. In addition, he expressed hope that the Council would support the Union’s request to provide capabilities to cut Al-Shabaab supply lines. He also renewed the request for international assistance in the monitoring and inspection of all vessels entering and leaving Kismayu and he thanked the Council for reinforcing sanctions on Eritrea, hoping they would be fully enforced.
The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, whose delegation holds the Council’s rotating presidency for January, spoke in her national capacity when she said that the meeting took place at a time when “a ray of hope was beginning to flicker” in Somalia, which had been covered by dark clouds for so long. There was now a good possibility, with international support, for the country to move towards peace and stability. She called on all Somali stakeholders to exercise sufficient political will to meet the agreed deadlines, and on the international community to continue their work to provide relief from the widespread famine in the country. “We must not fail Somalia and her people,” she said.
There was broad agreement around the Council table that it was a time of “real opportunity” for Somalis, even amid what some described as “unimaginable” suffering. It was deemed a crucial year for the political process, with the representative of the United Kingdom saying it was time for Somalia to move out of the transition towards a genuinely legitimate and representative government structure based on a constitutional process. Note was also taken of the security progress, with Al-Shabaab having been driven back on a number of fronts. Many urged adequate, timely and predictable funding for AMISOM right now.
It was a moment of opportunity to turn the tide of violence, poverty and despair in Somalia, said the United States’ delegate, paying tribute to the remarkable courage of the troops that had helped to liberate Mogadishu. Political reform must complement the early security gains. In a time of resource austerity, it was imperative that the international community seize the moment in Somalia by coming together and rising to meet the new challenges. It would be “foolish to turn our back on the collective successes so far”, he said.
However, he said his delegation, echoing the sentiment expressed by several others today, would not tolerate a missed deadline to the transition in August. Any further United States support would be contingent upon completion of the agreed tasks, he said. “We will stand by Somalia’s side,” but were prepared to walk away if there was no concrete progress in 2012.
Also speaking today was the Minister of Defence of Uganda.
All Council members spoke. Azerbaijan’s delegation was represented by its Minister for Foreign Affairs.
A statement was also made by the representative of Burundi.
The meeting was called to order at 3:18 p.m. and adjourned at 6:01 p.m.