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Somalia: Further consensus-building needed ahead of ‘historic’ election

Since his last briefing in November, Somalia has passed key legislation on finance, became eligible for debt relief, and approved a national policy on refugees, returnees and displaced persons, among other priorities. 

However, Mr. Swan reported that consultations between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed ‘Farmajo’ and political leaders have stalled, contributing to the absence of broad consensus on the way forward in what he described as a potentially “transformative year” for the country. 

“There is much to do in the year ahead, only by working together, as Somalis, as partners, and in a spirit of unity and compromise, will progress be made,” he said. 

“Further impetus and consensus-building are needed to ensure that key benchmarks for elections, security and relations between the Federal Government and Federal Member States do not fall further behind schedule”. 

Mr. Swan added that the UN, alongside the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and regional body the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have emphasized the need to resume dialogue, and stand ready to offer support as required. 

Outstanding questions remain 

The “historic” parliamentary election in December will be a critical test of Somalia’s progress in state-building, according to Mr. Swan, who is also head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). 

It represents a shift from recent political processes in which clan elders chose delegates who would then vote for leaders. 

This will mark just the third time that Somalia has had universal suffrage since gaining independence in 1960.    

The last such election was held in March1969 and the government was overthrown in a bloodless military coup that October.  

President Farmajo recently signed the new electoral code into law.   

While an important step, Mr. Swan said it does not address outstanding questions related to the locations of constituencies, guaranteeing 30 per cent of seats for women, and modalities that would allow people across the country to participate. 

He called for these issues to be resolved urgently. 

UN Photo/Manuel Elias
Francisco Caetano José Madeira (on screen), Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia and Head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), addresses the Security Council.

Security challenges 

On security, the al-Shabaab terrorist group still continues to carry out attacks in Somalia. 

Peacekeepers with the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) are supporting the national army, and have been gradually handing over responsibilities to them. 

By the end of this month, AMISOM will reduce its force by another 1,000 soldiers: the third such drawdown since 2018.  

Mission chief Francisco Caetano José Madeira spoke of challenges in re-generating and equipping their Somali counterparts. 

“The process is slow, underfunded, profoundly dependent on the goodwill of individual partners with no shared and coordinated training plans and no evident correlation with the need to timely generate forces capable of taking full security responsibility from AMISOM and allow the completion of the current transition by 2021,” he said. 

Locusts and the climate threat 

The authorities are not only fighting against militants.  Somalia has endured back-to-back droughts and floods and currently is battling the worst locust infestation in decades, affecting other Horn of Africa countries. 

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is helping the Government to stave off the potentially catastrophic impact on food security. 

At a meeting earlier this month in New York, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Mark Lowcock told ambassadors that weather events such as poor rains, drought, and floods created the environment that facilitated the current locust outbreak. 

In the future, peace operations will be undertaken in environments which are frequently influenced by, and vulnerable to, climate change, according to researchers at the Stockholm International Peace Institute. 

Dan Smith, the Institute’s Director, who also spoke in the Council, explained that because floods and droughts exacerbate conflict and displacement, they risk undermining efforts to build peace in Somalia. 

“Addressing the negative impact of environmental change on peace operations could offer an opportunity to build a positive relationship between environmental resilience and sustainable peace,” he suggested. 

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