Little optimism for Somalia in the quest for stability, says UN envoy

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By The EastAfrican

Somalia has made progress in addressing some of its problems but continues to experience “profound insecurity” and a dysfunctional political system, a United Nations official told the Security Council on Thursday.

UN Special Representative to Somalia, Mr Michael Keating, in his farewell speech, noted that “the structural problems that shape Somali politics and security have not fundamentally changed” during his nearly three-year tenure.

Mr Keating recalled that upon taking office in November 2015 he was immediately summoned by then Somalia’s president to discuss a crisis in relations between the central government and federal member-states.

The current threat of a similar rupture suggests that Somalia’s quest for political stability may not be nearing its destination, Mr Keating said.

Amisom

Al-Shabaab jihadist group remains a formidable fighting force, he added, warning that “a premature departure of Amisom could be disastrous.”

The British diplomat said, instead, Amisom requires more predictable donor funding.

African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), established in 2007, operates under the Security Council mandate and receives funding from the United Nations and the European Union.

The 20,000-strong Amisom comprises troops from Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, and Burundi.

A plan to drawdown the mission was extended to May next year with troops scheduled begin leaving by February. This followed concerns that the Somali security forces were not sufficiently trained to take over from the exiting forces.

Clans

Mr Keating said in addition to the mayhem wreaked by Al Shabaab, there was potential violence among Somali clans.

Federal and local governments failures to deliver basic services and ensure justice have enabled the insurgents to exercise political as well as military power, he noted.

“Too often people turn to Al Shabaab” instead of Somali authorities due to poor or non-existent governance, Mr Keating said.

“Corruption is systemic,” he added. “Untraceable money changing hands continues to be a defining feature of Somali politics.”

The UN envoy recited a litany of ills that, he warned, will remain uncured if the Security Council’s members do not cooperate among themselves.

“Somalis continue to experience profound insecurity, high and costly levels of violence, ruthless attacks by al-Shabaab, limited access to justice and basic services, absence of local governance, chronic poverty, lack of income and jobs,” Mr Keating declared.

Transition

All this, however, “should not obscure some remarkable achievements in the last three years.” These constitute “a largely untold story that is a credit to both Somalia and the UN,” Mr Keating said.

He cited a peaceful transition of presidential power and an increase in women’s share of parliamentary seats from 14 per cent to 24 per cent, which he noted is higher than both the African and global average.

Famine was averted in 2017, although there remains “a high risk of humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.

Mr Keating further noted that intense diplomatic activity by the UN and the regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) has prevented a military conflict between Somalia’s two breakaway regions of Somaliland and Puntland.

“A national framework for addressing chronic insecurity is in place,” he remarked.

“Future crises will result,” he warned, “from the combination of climate-related shocks, armed conflict provoked by Al Shabaab, unresolved grievances, competition over natural resources, and systemic marginalisation of certain groups.”

Monitor.co.ug

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