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Secretary-General’s Special Representative, In Briefing To Security Council, Calls For Significant Expansion Of United Nations Presence In Somalia
He Outlines Transitional Federal Government’s Peace Initiative, as Assistant Secretary-General Lays Out Scenarios for UN Deployment
Noting progress towards ending the costly 17-year-old “business-as-usual” policy towards Somalia, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for that country, called on the Security Council to visit Somalia this year and on the United Nations significantly to expand its presence there.
Briefing the Council this morning, he said that, under the reconciliation plan announced by the Transitional Federal Government last week, he would lead a peacebuilding process involving local peacekeeping and talks with the external opposition. But for the work of the United Nations to be truly credible, the Organization must deploy many more international staff inside Somalia and create a task force to protect shipments of humanitarian supplies, deter human smuggling, reduce piracy and support the arms embargo –- a task initiated by France in December. “Being far more visible inside the country would allow all of us to closely engage with Somalis, identify their needs, assist them and restore the United Nations reputation.”
He said he had recently spent three days holding joint discussions in Somalia with President Abdillahi Yusuf Ahmed, Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, and Adan “Madobe” Mohamed, Speaker of the Transitional Federal Parliament, who had assured him of their commitment to reconciliation. Next week, he planned to convene a follow-up meeting -– to be opened by the President -- with Somali and international businesspeople to discuss the private sector’s role in trade, telecommunications and infrastructure development. In full agreement with the President, Prime Minister Hussein had chosen a new and leaner Cabinet and the Government had moved to the capital, Mogadishu, in January, another sign of progress.
Despite such encouraging signs, however, there was still little action to stop the violence and opportunism, he said. “I believe Somalia remains a prisoner of the past -– never forgiven for the violent actions carried out against the international community in the 1990s.” There seemed to be either a reluctance to return there or a deliberate decision to punish all Somalis, many of whom had not even been born during the last international intervention. The international community must shift its focus from collecting numbers and statistics about the Somali people’s suffering to protecting the victims of armed violence, human rights abuses, drought and famine. That would require expedited security-sector reform and police training as well as bringing to account those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Briefing the Council on a recent fact-finding mission to Somalia, Edmund Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that, although the Government had begun an inclusive, viable peace process by reaching out to opposition groups, the security situation remained volatile and unpredictable, particularly in Mogadishu. Due to the complexity of the conflict, shifting alliances among clans and extremist activity, the situation in south and central Somalia could change from safe on one day to potentially dangerous the next. The Government had little capacity to regulate economic activity and maintain law and order, which left criminal and other armed elements free to influence revenue collection, customs and transport, and to engage the trafficking of arms, drugs and human beings.
Highlighting four possible scenarios that could lead to a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Somalia, he said the first, representing the current situation, did not allow for deployment of the United Nations Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS) and the United Nations country team in Mogadishu or the country’s southern and central regions. The second envisaged a marked improvement in the political process, allowing for UNPOS to relocate from Nairobi to Mogadishu to facilitate political dialogue on the ground. The third envisioned significant improvement in the political and security situation, with the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Mogadishu and the deployment of an impartial stabilization force formed by a coalition of willing States. Under the fourth scenario, in which the majority of the parties would agree to a political power-sharing arrangement and renounce violence, the United Nations could set up an integrated peacekeeping operation of up to 27,000 troops and a possible police component of up to 1,500 officers.
Somalia ’s representative, his countrymen and women were asking for a second chance to solve their protracted tragedy once and for all. The Transitional Federal Government was committed to peace and national reconciliation and there was now a window of opportunity to be seized with all urgency. The Council must work within current constraints to help create the circumstances in which the United Nations could be more fully engaged in fulfilling its responsibility. The Council and the international community must send the right message to the Somali people.
Uganda ’s representative called on the Secretary-General to authorize a financial, logistical and technical support package for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) now under review by the Secretariat, saying that a full deployment would serve as a stabilization force pending the arrival of United Nations peacekeepers. The African mission had only limited capacity as only Uganda and Burundi had troops in Somalia, while other countries had not fulfilled their pledges. The international community had done little to give Somalia the necessary logistical and financial support.
The meeting started at 10:30 a.m. and ended at 11:20 a.m.
Meeting this morning to consider the situation in Somalia, the Security Council was expected to hear briefings by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in that country and the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.
Before the Council was the latest report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Somalia (document S/2008/178), which provides an update on the security, human rights and humanitarian aspects, and outlines the development activities carried out by United Nations agencies and programmes. It also presents the status of contingency planning for the possible deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation to take over from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), as requested by Council resolution 1772 (2007) and presidential statement S/PRST/2007/49 of 19 December 2007.
AHMEDOU OULD ABDALLAH, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, welcomed last week’s announcement by the country’s Transitional Federal Government of a reconciliation strategy which would involve local peacekeeping and talks with the external opposition. The plan called on the Special Representative to lead the process, he said, expressing his full commitment to helping the various parties come together for preliminary talks at a time and location to be determined soon.
Recalling his last briefing to the Council in December, he noted that he had called for an end to the costly 17-year-old “business as usual” policy that had yet to bring peace to Somalia. There had since been a new approach to addressing the conflict and indications of progress from inside and outside the country. In full agreement with President Abdillahi Yusuf Ahmed, Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein had chosen a new, leaner Cabinet with half its members from outside Parliament. It had been welcomed both nationally and internationally. In another sign of progress, the Government had moved to the capital, Mogadishu, in January.
He said he had recently spent three days in Somalia, holding joint discussions with the President, the Speaker and the Prime Minister, who had assured him of their commitment to reconciliation. He had also addressed Parliament, which was backing the Government peace initiative, and held meetings with the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, while maintaining regular contacts with all sides. He had visited Brussels, Cairo and Addis Ababa for consultations with Governments and international organizations, and would soon visit the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda.
Until now, international attention had essentially focused on Somalia’s failings, he said, adding that, in order to do justice to the Somali people’s resilience and courage, he had broadened the agenda by organizing a conference of Somali and international businesspeople in January to discuss how the private sector could help move the country into a peacetime economy. He would convene a larger follow-up meeting next week, to be opened by the Prime Minister and attended by international figures. It was important to recognize and encourage Somali efforts in trade, telecommunications and infrastructure. But while those developments were encouraging, they were not enough.
He said more people were talking about Somalia but there was still little action to stop the violence and opportunism. “I believe Somalia remains a prisoner of the past -– never forgiven for the violent actions carried out against the international community in the 1990s.” There seemed to be either a reluctance to go back there or a deliberate decision to punish all Somalis, many of whom were not even born during the last international intervention. “I am not asking outside countries to become active for moral or altruistic reasons. They have a clearly mandated responsibility to become involved in a country where there are widespread violations of human rights and humanitarian law.” The responsibility to protect had been adopted by the 2005 World Summit and later endorsed by the Council. Too much time was spent collecting numbers and statistics about the suffering of the Somali people. “The real battle to be won is to be close to and to protect the victims of armed violence, abuse of human rights, of drought and famine.”
Returning to his December briefing, he recalled having urged simultaneous action on the political and security tracks, which were closely intertwined. Today, there had been some progress on the political front with the Government’s reconciliation plan, but similar action was needed on the security front. Ugandan and Burmese troops were doing an excellent job of what was clearly the responsibility of the whole international community. As indicated in the Secretary-General’s letter of 20 September, security options should not be limited to AMISOM or United Nations troops. A strong interim multinational presence could also be an option. “This would involve the friends of Somalia contributing political support, funds and troops to stabilize the situation, preferably under a lead country.”
He went on to say more could be done to protect ships carrying humanitarian assistance, as initiated by France last December. Denmark had taken over that responsibility for escorting ships and the Netherlands had volunteered to continue. That responsibility should be expanded into a United Nations task force charged with protecting humanitarian supply shipping, deterring human smuggling, reducing piracy and supporting the arms embargo. For the Organization’s work to be truly credible, it must deploy many more international staff inside Somalia. The entire United Nations country team and the Office of the Special Representative would follow the example of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Mogadishu. “Being far more visible inside the country would allow all of us to closely engage with Somalis, identify their needs, assist them and restore the United Nations reputation. No other institution would benefit more from such a move than the Security Council, which, in my opinion, should visit Somalia this year.”
To encourage higher numbers of international staff inside Somalia, it was necessary to expedite security-sector reform and police training, he said, pointing out that such short-term peacebuilding steps could help stability. The international community must also address the question of impunity as countless lives had been lost and thousands of people forced from their homes. Those responsible for the violence continued to profit from the misery of others. Those who had carried out war crimes and crimes against humanity must be brought to account through the International Criminal Court or other international or local bodies. A commission of inquiry could be established to look into the most serious crimes.
However, such solutions could not all be imposed from outside, he said, stressing that Somalis must also change their approach. The “winner takes all” attitude, which left no room for power sharing, had destroyed the country and its reputation. Compromise in negotiation, as demonstrated by the “Agreement of al Hudaibiya” between the Prophet Mohammed and the people of Mecca, could benefit everyone, and reconciliation would bring profit to all. Somalia’s complex situation could not be analyzed on the basis of the partisan or inaccurate news reports that were particularly popular with computer users. Level-headed analysis should be based on first-hand information and expertise. An ideological or dogmatic approach should give way to continued flexibility and due respect for the basic United Nations principles of caring for populations and maintaining peace.
EDMUND MULET, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said a fact-finding mission had visited the region from 7 to 25 February, consulting with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, the African Union, as well as regional and Somali stakeholders. The mission had visited Merka, Baidoa, Kismayo and Mogadishu for three days, where it had met with the Prime Minister and assessed the security situation on the ground. In Mogadishu, the team had visited many districts of the capital to assess the security situation.
In assessing possibilities for a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Somalia, he said, the fact-finding team had conducted a comprehensive analysis of the security situation, including threats and risks to the security of United Nations personnel. The situation was not the same throughout the country. Security conditions in the north were relatively better than those in southern and central Somalia, where the conflict remained extremely complex, characterized by a web of shifting alliances between clans, sub-clans, and extremist elements, all fighting for control of political and economic space, and by a temporary alliance of groups trying to force the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from the country.
Given the Transitional Federal Government’s limited capacity to regulate economic activity and maintain law and order, he said, criminal and other armed elements were free to seek influence over revenue collection, customs, the port, trade, water and land, besides engaging in the trafficking of arms, drugs and humans. In many cases, political and resource-driven inter- and intra-clan tensions were linked to the activities of criminal and insurgent elements and could not be separated from them. While the continued threat of abduction, kidnapping and extortion limited the capacity of United Nations and humanitarian agencies to operate in the country, the Organization’s country team estimated that the number of people in need of humanitarian aid was now approaching 2 million.
He said the general security trend in Mogadishu appeared proportional to the level of military effort undertaken by the Ethiopian Armed Forces/Transitional Federal Government coalition to defeat anti-Government elements or conduct forcible disarmament. Between June and September 2007, there had been a sharp increase in standoff attacks and assassinations, but a marked decrease in armed clashes. Since September, concerted Ethiopian/Transitional Federal Government action against anti-Government elements within Mogadishu had increased. During the last quarter of 2007, however, attacks by anti-Government elements had become more coordinated and had begun to be conducted during daylight hours. Security incidents mostly involving insurgents occurred almost daily, targeting Transitional Federal Government and Ethiopian forces as well as AMISOM personnel. On 8 and 9 February, the United Nations common compound had been targeted by hand grenade and improvised explosive device attacks. Threats against the United Nations had also appeared on Islamist websites.
Presenting possible future scenarios that could lead to a United Nations peacekeeping operation, he said the Secretariat had developed them into contingency plans for possible international support for the peace process. The first scenario generally represented the current situation. The Transitional Federal Government, with the support of national and international partners, continued to develop an inclusive and viable political process, including initiating dialogue. While the current security situation did not allow the deployment of the United Nations Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS) and the United Nations country team in Mogadishu or the south and central parts of the country, the Department of Safety and Security could develop viable options for security arrangements that would allow a limited number of UNPOS staff and country team members to relocate from Nairobi to Mogadishu and other parts of south and central Somalia. Relocation would enable the United Nations effectively to facilitate mediation efforts on the ground and address critical gaps in humanitarian and recovery assistance.
The second contingency scenario envisaged a measured improvement in the political process, with at least a critical mass of the opposition parties supporting political dialogue, he said. While the security situation would still be volatile, dialogue on security arrangements would have commenced, creating the conditions necessary for strengthening the United Nations presence in Mogadishu and other areas of south and central Somalia. The objective under that scenario would be for the United Nations to further enhance its political support to the peace process, through the relocation of UNPOS headquarters, and the limited number of personnel initially deployed under scenario one, to Mogadishu in order to facilitate political dialogue on the ground. Subject to the presence required, it could take considerable time to put security arrangements in place, entailing a major investment in resources and physical protection measures. The Department of Safety and Security should undertake a further assessment as soon as possible, in close consultation with the Department of Political Affairs, UNPOS, the country team, the Department of Field Support and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
Scenario three envisaged a measured improvement in both the political and security situation, he explained. The major clans and factions, including a critical mass of armed opposition groups, would accept and implement a code of conduct on the use of arms. While that might be short of a full security agreement -– ceasefire and cessation of hostilities -– it would establish a minimum code of behavior among the armed groups, including a commitment not to attack United Nations and humanitarian personnel. The Ethiopian Government and the Transitional Federal Government would have indicated their readiness to consider a phased withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from Mogadishu. Under that scenario, it was assumed that the political dialogue between the Government and the opposition would have commenced but, if the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops was to be achieved before political and security agreements had been finalized, an impartial stabilization force comprising about 8,000 highly trained and capable troops and police from a coalition of willing States would be required. Since clan tensions, extremist elements and the potential for resumed conflict would remain, the stabilization force would require timely and accurate intelligence on extremist and other groups, in addition to strong physical protection at its bases to defeat mortars and rocket-propelled grenade attacks.
Under scenario four, he explained, a viable political process would have taken hold involving players from southern and central Somalia as well as Puntland, with the majority of the parties agreeing to a political power-sharing agreement and a renunciation of violence. They would have agreed to lay down their arms and commit themselves to support the implementation of a Security Council mandate establishing an integrated United Nations peacekeeping operation. Although spoilers would still remain, they would have been marginalized to the extent possible. Ethiopian forces would have withdrawn or in the process of doing so. A military agreement outlining key security arrangements, including a ceasefire, would have been signed by the major clans and factions. Conditions that would ensure the best chances of success for an integrated United Nations peacekeeping mission in Somalia under that scenario included the cessation of hostilities, agreement by all major groups to allow for external monitoring and an inclusive political dialogue.
The total number of United Nations military personnel that would be required under that scenario was up to 27,000, with a possible police component of up to 1,500 police officers, he said. Prior to any deployment, an integrated mission planning process should be completed, including a comprehensive technical assessment mission to Somalia. The mission would, among other things, maintain a secure environment for the functioning of a broadly accepted political dispensation and assist in the development of security, judicial and corrections institutions capable of ensuring the rule of law, and the administrative and institutional capacity necessary to provide basic and social services.
Finally, with regard to support for AMISOM, he recalled that, on 20 February, a letter from the African Union’s Chairperson had requested that the United Nations put in place a financial, logistical and technical support package for the mission, totaling some $817.5 million. The Secretariat was reviewing that request to see how best the United Nations could respond to it. Meanwhile, Member States were encouraged to provide additional support to the African Union and to countries contributing troops to AMISOM. The Secretariat continued to provide personnel to the African Union in Addis Ababa where they were supporting AMISOM planning.
ELMI AHMED DUALE ( Somalia) said that, after 16 years, the Somali people were asking for a second chance to resolve their protracted tragedy once and for all. Somalis were tired of civil war and suffering and the Transitional Federal Government was committed to peace and national reconciliation. There was now a window of opportunity to be seized with all urgency. The United Nations, and the Council in particular, could use the lessons learned from previous missions that had made positive contributions to ending conflict and building peace. The Secretary-General’s report illustrated that the international community had a clear and unambiguous responsibility to the Somali people, which obliged the Council to look beyond the limitations of the current security situation and come up with ideas about how to help create the circumstances in which the United Nations could be more fully engaged.
Stressing that the Council was responsible for protecting and assisting Somalia’s legitimate Government, he said silence and lack of action were not viable options. The international community and the Council must participate seriously in a peacebuilding process that must send the right message to the Somali people as well as to subregional and regional organizations and donors. While the Transitional Federal Government was striving, with limited resources and international assistance, to bring peace and stability to the country, a few elements were doing just the opposite. The most viable, practical and meaningful strategy was to adopt a timely and properly integrated contingency plan containing the four elements detailed in the report. United Nations agencies should relocate inside Somalia, where many cities could meet their security requirements.
FRANCIS BUTAGIRA ( Uganda), noting that only his own country and Burundi had so far deployed troops in Somalia, said others that had promised troops had not fulfilled their pledges. The international community had been called upon to provide the necessary logistical and financial support, but so far not much had been done. Council resolution 1801 (2008) urged Member States to provide financial resources, personnel, equipment and services for the full deployment of AMISOM, and the Council had also been urged to take over from the African Union mission, but nothing had been done.
Noting that the Secretary-General’s report envisaged a total force of 15 to 21 infantry battalions, with a military component of up to 27,000 and a possible police component of up to 1,500, there could be no such deployment without an actual peace to keep. Why had the Council authorized AMISOM when peace did not exist? Uganda urged the Council to move quickly to mobilize the international community, under United Nations leadership, to provide the necessary logistical and financial support to enable the full deployment of AMISOM. The Secretary-General should respond favorably to the African Union Chairperson’s proposal for the provision of $817.5 million in financial, logistical and technical support for the African mission. A full AMISOM deployment would serve as a stabilization force pending the arrival of United Nations peacekeepers. Uganda was in Somalia for a good cause and would stay to course.