Security Council Urges Somalia’s Governing Institutions to Reach Agreement on Elections, as End of Transitional Period Approaches

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Security Council 6532nd Meeting (AM & PM)

Presidential Statement Expresses Concern at Discord, Unilateral Mandate Extensions

Noting that the transitional period in Somalia would end in August, the Security Council today urged the East African nation’s Transitional Federal Institutions to reach agreement as soon as possible on the holding of elections for the President and the Speaker of Parliament.

In a statement read out by Gérard Araud (France), its President for May, the Council expressed concern about the discord between the Institutions and its impact on the country’s political processes and security situation. It also expressed regret at their having unilaterally extended their respective mandates and urged them to refrain from any further such actions.

Noting with concern that many core transitional tasks set out in the 2008 Djibouti Peace Agreement and the Transitional Federal Charter remained outstanding, the Council called upon the institutions to “ensure cohesion, unite and focus” on completing those tasks, notably reconciliation, the Constitution and ensuring basic service delivery.

Furthermore, the Council deeply regretted the failure of the Transitional Federal Government to participate in April’s High-Level Consultative Meeting on post-transitional arrangements, convened in Nairobi by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and urged the Government to “engage fully, constructively and without further delay” in the consultative process in order to advance the peace process. In that context, the Council welcomed the upcoming consultative meeting scheduled for June in Mogadishu, the capital, and urged all Somali stakeholders to participate.

In addition, the Council called on the Transitional Federal Government to take advantage of tactical gains made by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali security forces in consolidating security and stability in the capital by delivering basic services and integrating military objectives into a clear political strategy. It called for an increased United Nations presence in Mogadishu and other parts of Somalia.

Briefing the Council earlier, Augustine Mahiga, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS), said the single most divisive issue among Mogadishu’s political groups was whether to hold elections in July or defer them until a later date. He stressed the urgent need to reach consensus on when and how to hold the elections, to define the mandate of the next dispensation and to defuse the stalemate between the legislative and executive branches of Government.

Regardless of the election date, he said, UNPOS was preparing a road map that would suggest benchmarks, timelines and resource requirements for the next Government to implement priority transitional tasks that its predecessor had failed to carry out. Regrettably, the process of political outreach and reconciliation by the Transitional Federal Institutions had stalled since the signing of the 2008 Djibouti Agreement, he continued, noting that the High-Level Committee provided for in the accord, with the aim of promoting dialogue among Somali actors, had not met since December 2009, despite his constant calls for it to do so.

Moreover, the President and Speaker had not worked together since the beginning of February, he noted, adding that Parliament’s unilateral decision to extend its term by three years and the Government’s deferral of elections for a year had further polarized relations between the two. While neither the President nor the Prime Minister had attended the April consultative meeting in Nairobi, he said he was heartened by the Transitional Federal Government’s decision to hold a multi-stakeholder meeting in June to carry on the consultative process. UNPOS would fully support that initiative, he stressed.

Emphasizing AMISOM’s crucial role in stabilizing Somalia, he said it would soon receive 3,000 additional troops from Burundi and Uganda, bringing its total authorized strength to 12,000. Still, the Mission needed force enablers and specialized capabilities, notably helicopters, he said. With its effectiveness impeded by critical resource gaps, Member States must fully support AMISOM with sustained troop and in-kind contributions so that it could close equipment gaps and fully carry out its mandate.

Noting the African Union’s call for the Council to take more robust action to prevent supplies from reaching insurgents, the port of Kismayo had increasingly become a commercial hub for the Al-Shabaab extremist group, he said, stressing that the Council’s Sanctions Committee must consider action against violators of the United Nations arms embargo operating through Kismayo’s harbour and airport.

Turning to piracy off the coast of Somalia, he said UNPOS and the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs were preparing a report for the Council on the establishment of specialized courts to try suspected pirates and continue to develop regional prosecution and prison capacities. UNPOS was setting up a piracy unit as the United Nations focal point for coordinating all related activity, he added.

Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed of Somalia said Transitional Federal Government troops and AMISOM forces were reclaiming significant territory from extremist groups in Mogadishu and areas bordering Kenya and Ethiopia. They had recaptured key districts and towns in Gedo and Juba. “Together, the [Transitional Federal Government] and AMISOM forces continue to push the extremist forces back each and every week,” he said, emphasizing that “defeating extremists from Somalia requires the same level of commitment to that of Afghanistan and Iraq”. Calling on the international community to bolster logistical support so that Government troops and AMISOM could consolidate and sustain those gains, he thanked Burundi and Uganda for contributing troops. “We hope that the efforts of AMISOM forces in Somalia will show the world that African countries can solve their problems regionally,” he said.

He criticized as unconstitutional the Transitional Federal Parliament’s unilateral decision to extend its term for three years without first consulting properly with other Transitional Federal Institutions. Those institutions would cease to exist as of August 2011, and the current Parliament lacked a constitutional mandate to elect a new President, he pointed out. “A post-August legally elected legislature will be the legitimate Parliament to elect a President,” he added.

The President had called on Parliament to reconsider its decision, but the Speaker had so far rejected that appeal, he said. “With such visible progress on the ground, this is the worst possible time to be distracted by untenable election processes and the divisive campaigning that will inevitably take place,” the Prime Minister said, warning that Al-Shabaab would surely capitalize on that division to try and strength its position.

He said that to address the situation, he had asked Parliament and international partners to extend the mandate of the Transitional Federal Institutions for 12 months in order to further stabilize and secure the country politically, thus creating a chance for free and fair elections. He said he had appointed a ministerial committee and asked Parliament to meet with it in order to settle differences amicably and reach consensus on the way forward. Furthermore, the Transitional Federal Government would hold a multi-stakeholder meeting in June to carry on the consultative process, he added.

The Somali people’s support for and confidence in their Government was growing thanks to the latter’s steady efforts to deliver services and good governance, he said. Civil society groups were beginning to mobilize, and in the past two months alone, the Government had opened a new hospital, taken charge of operations at a school adjacent to the Jaziira military training camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu, and set up two other schools for poor and orphaned children. Moreover, private investors were sinking their money into new construction projects, he said, adding that the first national television and newspaper, Dalka, had recently relaunched.

Somalia was in the first line of defence against the two evils of piracy and terrorism, both of which were rooted in lawlessness, poverty and unemployment, he said. In light of the killing of Osama bin Laden, his Government had declared a state of high alert, due to credible information that Al-Qaida and Al-Shabaab were planning revenge attacks. He also stressed that the rule of law must be brought back on land to defeat piracy on the high seas. Overall, the Transitional Federal Government’s five main priorities continued to be improving security, enhancing reconciliation, completing transitional tasks, addressing the humanitarian crisis and promoting good governance, he said.

Reta Alemu Nega (Ethiopia) said progress over the past week towards improving security in Somalia could potentially change the country’s political landscape. Those gains should be preserved and built upon as they had major positive implications for the fight against global and regional terrorist groups.

He said that focusing on the weaknesses of the Somali authorities was unfair and may not serve common objectives. The point was to give AMISOM more security support so that it could better help the Transitional Federal Government on a range of issues, and to engage in serious consultations, drawing on security gains, on how to sort through the country’s political problems.