Fri. Oct 15th, 2021

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With Upper House of Parliament elections having begun in four of Somalia’s federal member states and broader electoral plans back on track following a political crisis earlier in 2021, speakers told the Security Council today that the process must be inclusive and credible, and meet the 30 per cent quota agreed for women’s representation.

Following a prolonged period of uncertainty and heightened tensions, “the long-awaited elections in Somalia are now moving forward”, albeit somewhat behind schedule, said James Swan, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), as he presented the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2021/723).

Ensuring the success of the process will require constant effort by all parties, in particular the leaders of the federal Government and federal member states, and implementation of the existing electoral agreements, he emphasized, noting that the United Nations recently signed an agreement with the office of the Prime Minister to ensure that donor funds generously contributed by Member States are available for use by the electoral management bodies.

Batula Axmed Gaballe, Chairperson of the Somali National Women’s Organization and Chair of the Advocacy Committee recently appointed to achieve the 30 per cent women’s representation quota, expressed regret that no clear mechanism for reaching that target in Somalia’s 2021 federal elections has yet been created.  “Despite repeated promises, the 27 May 2021 communiqué […] provided no details on how this commitment will be implemented,” she said.  Outlining some of the main demands of Somali women leaders, she said they include reducing candidate registration fees for women and reserving seats to be contested only by women.  However, women leaders and civil society organizations have very little or no resources to advocate for the 30 per cent quota scheme.

In the Upper House election currently under way, she said, no state has yet delivered the 30 per cent quota, with women’s representation ranging from 25 to 27 per cent.  Pointing out that the state of Jubaland has yet to elect any women, she said that, besides financial constraints, women candidates also face challenges related to insecurity and fear of intimidation.  Strengthened protection and a “level playing field” for both current and future elections is needed, she stressed.

Also briefing the Council was Francisco Caetano Jose Madeira Francisco, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia and Head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).  He outlined the bloc’s election support in Somalia, which now extends beyond security to include the provision of capacity‑building, technical advice and direct budgetary support.  AMISOM civilian staff are engaged in capacity-building with women’s and youth groups, aimed at ensuring their participation in elections, while the Mission’s police are providing security for the current Upper House elections.

Reporting on the African Union’s recent assessment of AMISOM, he said the “overriding” consensus was in support of establishing a joint African Union-United Nations multidimensional stabilization mission — one that is best-placed to address post-2021 challenges — with sustainable, predictable funding.  “We are in a critical period in Somalia, one where our collective focus must be to prevent Al-Shabaab from disrupting the ongoing electoral process,” he added, referring to the insurgent group whose attacks have killed hundreds of civilians in recent months.

In the ensuing discussion, many Council members voiced their strong support for the 30 per cent quota for women’s participation in elections.  Quoting from the Somali Women’s Charter, Norway’s delegate said that there can be no sustained peace and development without women’s political participation.  The representative of Mexico, echoing that point, said the participation of women in Somalia’s political processes is one of the most critical provisions in the resolution being put forward for the renewal of UNSOM’s mandate.

On the role of AMISOM, the African Union Mission, the United Kingdom’s delegate said collaboration among the federal Government, United Nations, African Union and donors will enable stakeholders to agree on a model for a successor mission that is realistic, affordable and enables Somalia to assume progressively greater responsibility for its own security.

The representative of France said the European Union has contributed nearly €2 billion to AMISOM since 2007, which should result in greater operational efficiency.  Her country, along with the broader bloc, will reassess its contributions to AMISOM while ensuring the Mission’s better coordination with European Union military and civilian missions deployed in Somalia.

Meanwhile, the Russian Federation’s delegate said the African Union and the Government must work out a mutually acceptable arrangement to hand over security responsibility, adding that such changes must be carefully considered in order to avoid a security vacuum.

For his part, the representative of Somalia stressed that “AMISOM cannot stay in Somalia forever”.  The Mission must continue transitioning its responsibility to Somalia’s security forces, he said, adding that all such arrangements must be aligned with Government priorities.

Also speaking were representatives of Viet Nam, Tunisia (also on behalf of Kenya, Niger and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), Ireland, China, United States, Estonia and India.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 11:55 a.m.

Briefings

JAMES SWAN, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), recounted significant progress made since the signing of the 27 May electoral implementation agreement between Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and leaders of the federal member states.  The National Consultative Council, consisting of the Prime Minister and the federal member states’ leaders, has held regular meetings to discuss ways to further implement the pact.  Election management bodies at both the federal and state levels have been established, and the elections for Upper House seats have begun in four federal member states.

Meanwhile, he said, the National Electoral Security Committee was established and began preparations for its work.  Among other things, an Advocacy Committee was appointed to help achieve a quota of 30 per cent for women’s representation in the 2021 federal elections.  However, he cautioned that more progress is still needed in electoral security, and voiced concern that, unless strong measures are put in place now, the women’s quota might not be achieved.  There is also a need for greater inclusion of youth and historically marginalized communities in the electoral process.  The United Nations recently signed an agreement with the office of the Prime Minister to ensure that donor funds generously contributed by Member States are available for use by the electoral management bodies.

Beyond the electoral process, he said, the United Nations continues to support broader peacebuilding efforts, including strengthening federalism, conflict prevention and management and peace consolidation.  Noting that the 27 May agreement includes a road map for the completion of Somalia’s State‑building process, he said preparations for election security are critical amid the continued threat posed by Al-Shabaab.  UNSOM has recorded 708 Somali civilian casualties — including 321 killed — in 2021 so far, mostly attributed to that insurgent group.  He also cited an alarming increase in sexual violence and violations against children.  The United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) continues to provide vital support to African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali security forces, he said, noting that UNSOS assistance to the Somali national army and police force is made possible by voluntary trust fund contributions and calling for additional contributions.

Emphasizing that the humanitarian situation in Somalia remains dire, he said the combined impact of conflict and climate change — including recurrent droughts and floods and the COVID-19 pandemic — is likely to further exacerbate food insecurity.  The United Nations 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan for Somalia stands at only 38 per cent funded.  Recalling that the Council has previously recognized the adverse effects of climate change in Somalia, he said the United Nations continues to work with federal Government and federal member states to better understand, mitigate and manage the crisis.  Today, following a prolonged period of uncertainty and heightened tensions, “the long-awaited elections in Somalia are now moving forward”, albeit somewhat behind schedule.  Ensuring the process is inclusive and credible will require constant effort by all parties, as well as continued leadership by the signatories of the 27 May agreement, he concluded.

FRANCISCO CAETANO JOSE MADEIRA FRANCISCO, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia and Head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), welcomed that the recent political stalemate has been replaced by positive developments.  Applauding Somali leaders for enhancing their focus on issues that unite them and speaking with one voice on elections, he noted that, on 27 May, the Prime Minister convened a week-long Consultative Council summit, where leaders agreed on modalities for the implementation of the 17 September 2020 agreement and Baidoa Technical Committee proposals.  The process started with the election of some members to the Upper House for Jubaland South West and Puntland federal member states.  “I commend Somali leaders for this very important milestone,” he said, welcoming the efforts that went into their preparation, including by the Federal Election Implementation Team and the Prime Minister’s office.

He also highlighted progress by the federal member states’ ministerial committee on reconciliation in Garbaharey, as well as the appointment of goodwill ambassadors to promote the women’s 30 per cent quota, an issue championed by the African Union Commission.  Amid those efforts towards reconciliation and national unity, leaders in the federal Government and from federal member states have not relented in their meetings since the 27 May agreement, having regularly convened presidential and virtual national consultative council summits.  “These sustained discussions are contributing to enhancing good faith,” he said, as leaders have recommitted to the national agenda and to respecting the electoral process.

For its part, he said, the African Union remains committed to supporting Somalia as outlined in Peace and Security Council communiqué 978 (2021).  Its election support now extends beyond security to include the provision of capacity‑building, technical advice and direct budgetary support.  AMISOM civilian staff have increased their capacity-building and local engagement with civil society organizations, including women’s and youth groups, with aim of ensuring their participation in elections.  African Union election experts will be deployed in the coming days, and the bloc has also approved Somalia’s request for electoral budgetary support.  The continental logistical base in Duala, Cameroon, will donate equipment to complement and expand Somalia’s capacity to deliver during elections, he added.

He went on to describe support by AMISOM police in providing security for elections to seats in the Upper House, and along with Somali colleagues, conducting recent joint security missions in several areas.  Across Jubaland and South West states, AMISOM police continue to support key election-related causes, including counter-terrorism efforts and election security management, while in Mogadishu, AMISOM provided training on community policing during elections.  “We are in a critical period in Somalia, one where our collective focus must be to prevent Al‑Shabaab from disrupting the ongoing electoral process,” he said, stressing that the group has employed “sinister tactics”, including modifying its mortars to maximize their deadly impact.  He also cited reports that Al-Shabaab is using intimidation against local elders, urging them to refrain from participating in elections.

In response, he said, AMISOM has maintained vigilance at all forward operating bases, enhanced “VIP” protection, bolstered joint operations with mobile forces and strengthened patrols.  The Mission continues to see progress in its continued June offensive and targeted operations, he added, noting that earlier in August it conducted joint operations in an area of South West state.  AMISOM’s presence has allowed for the prioritization of main population centres, freeing Somalia’s forces to conduct independent operations.  He also noted that a team of Somalia National Army staff officers completed an AMISOM mentoring programme focused on intelligence collection, among other activities.

Turning to AMISOM’s reconfiguration, he said the Mission and the Somali National Army have harmonized their operational plans and established joint coordination centres across all AMISOM areas, which will soon be operational.  He took note of the federal Government’s progress report — shared with international partners in July — which identifies key achievements and outputs from January to June, adding that the African Union would have preferred to see more detail on the activities and achievements of AMISOM uniformed personnel in implementing Somalia’s transition plan.  Nonetheless, he looked forward to the high-level Security and Justice Committee meeting, and expressed confidence that it will foster greater understanding of the harmonized plans and the resources that will be required from key partners — including the African Union itself.

He emphasized that, over 14 years, Somalia has seen significant progress in the establishment of security and other State institutions, thanks to Government efforts supported by AMISOM and international partners.  Such work has led to two successive peaceful transfers of power in 2012 and 2016m and a degradation of Al‑Shabaab since 2007, all of which has created the political space for State‑building and peacebuilding to unfold.   Calling for consensus around the African Union’s future in Somalia post-2021, he recalled that the bloc undertook an independent assessment on that matter, which has been considered by AMISOM, troop-contributing countries, the African Union Commission, and on 30 July, the African Union Peace and Security Council.  The “overriding” consensus was for a joint African Union-United Nations multidimensional stabilization mission to be established, as the model best-placed to address post-2021 challenges.

While the United Nations independent-led assessment calls for a reconfigured AMISOM, he urged the Council to consider the issue of ownership, as any future Mission must continue respect Somalia’s sovereignty and leadership in the areas of stabilization, peacebuilding and State-building.  This will allow the African Union to continue working with Somali stakeholders in support of nationally owned strategies and frameworks ahead of the next election cycle, in 2025-2026.  Addressing security and political challenges will require leadership and outreach, he continued, recalling that the most important conclusions of the 2015 high-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations was its emphasis on the “primacy of politics” in the ultimate success in peace operations.  “This is no less the case for AMISOM,” he stressed.  AMISOM must retain a flexible posture in order to deliver on new and emerging priorities, which will require the African Union to have more specialized experts deployed across the country, reflecting Somalia’s federal nature.

The African Union also will seek to renew strategic partnerships, he said, adding that there are no stronger partners than the European Union and the United Nations.  Meanwhile, any future African Union presence must be assured of sustainable, predictable funding.  Stressing that partnership with the United Nations must remain at the centre of international engagement with Somalia, he said the renewal of resolution 2540 (2021) should benefit from a “radical reassessment” by the federal Government, African Union, United Nations and key international partners.  Additionally, the prioritization and sequencing of mandated tasks should be appraised and aligned with Somalia’s new realities, beginning in 2022.  In that context, he welcomed important measures taken by Kenya and Somalia since June, which have fostered strengthened relations between the two neighbours.

BATULA AXMED GABALLE, Chairperson of the Somali National Women’s Organization, said she is also briefing the Council in her capacity as Chair of the recently appointed Advocacy Committee for achieving the women’s 30 per cent quota in Somalia’s 2021 federal elections.  Highlighting the need to preserve that agreed quota for women, as laid out in the 27 May agreement, she expressed regret that no clear mechanism for its implementation has yet been created.  “Despite repeated promises, the 27 May 2021 communiqué […] provided no details on how this commitment will be implemented,” she said.  Pointing to the political stalemate and delays in the electoral process that have increased women’s concerns, she stressed that, without agreements among the federal Government and federal member state leaders — as well as political stability — there will be no elections, let alone a realization of the 30 per cent quota.

Outlining some of the main demands of Somali women leaders, she said they include reducing candidate registration fees for women and reserving seats to be contested only by women.  However, women leaders and civil society organizations have very little or no resources to advocate for the 30 per cent quota scheme.  In the Upper House election currently under way, no state has yet delivered the 30 per cent quota, with women’s representation ranging from 25 to 27 per cent.  The federal member state of Jubaland has yet to elect any women.  Besides financial constraints, women candidates also face challenges related to insecurity and fear of intimidation, she said, calling for strengthened protection and a “level playing field” for current and future elections.

“Somali women represent over 50 per cent of the population, and they cannot be excluded from political and decision-making roles,” she continued.  In that context, she called on the new Government and Parliament to amend the federal electoral law and political parties’ laws, ensuring clear provisions for women’s full participation, with resources and support provided.  Alongside the Somali authorities, the international community — particularly the United Nations — has a major responsibility to ensure that political dialogue, reconciliation and development efforts are inclusive, she stressed, adding that women’s participation and protection from all forms of violence must be a priority.

Statements

BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) expressed concern over possible further delays in Somalia’s electoral timetable, as failure to implement it would further risk political division and serve only to benefit Al-Shabaab, which continues to launch frequent attacks.  Against that backdrop, she urged the Somali authorities, in close coordination with AMISOM, to accelerate preparations on elections security.  Collaboration among the federal Government, United Nations, African Union and donors is vital, as it will enable stakeholders to agree on a model for a successor mission to AMISOM that is realistic, affordable and enables Somalia to assume progressively greater responsibility for its own security.  Delivering on the 27 May agreement and completing the electoral process will present Somalia with an important opportunity to refocus on broader priorities and pursue solutions to the challenges facing the Somali people, she added.

PHAM HAI ANH (Viet Nam), underscoring the need to forge a favourable environment for elections, said Somalia’s long-term peace and prosperity hinges on continued international support, including strengthening State institutions.  Voicing support for military operations against Al-Shabaab and urging the Government of Somalia to do more to protect civilians and investigate acts of violence, he said international support for the Somali army and security forces — including training, equipment provision, capacity-building and operations against militants — remains critical.  Spotlighting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, desert locusts, floods and drought on the population, he also called on international partners to do more to help the Government alleviate socioeconomic hardships.  Only through a comprehensive approach can the Government and the people of Somalia overcome long‑standing challenges and achieve sustained stability and development, he said.

TAREK LADEB (Tunisia), speaking also for Kenya, Niger and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, welcomed the start of the electoral process, underlining the vital importance of ensuring that the upcoming elections are free, fair, timely and meet the aspirations of people for good governance and development.  He welcomed efforts to realize the agreed 30 per cent quota for women’s participation, reiterating support for “one person, one vote” elections in 2024 and 2025.  Expressing concern over the security situation — as Al-Shabaab continues to pose the greatest threat to peace — he reiterated the call for continued international support in efforts to counter that group.

He went on to call for more capacity‑building, aimed at enabling the Government to take full responsibility for Somalia’s security.  Noting the options proposed by the African Union for its presence in Somalia post-2021, including the preference expressed for a new African Union-United Nations joint mission, he invited those partners to continue working closely with the Government in agreeing on the best way forward.  He denounced continued reports of arbitrary detentions of journalists and of sexual and gender-based violence, including against children, encouraging the authorities to prevent such violations and to protect human rights.  In addition, he called for scaled-up funding for the Humanitarian Response Plan, while reaffirming his delegation’s unwavering support for Somalia’s sovereignty, unity, political independent and territorial integrity.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) welcomed the step-by-step progress being made towards the implementation of an agreed electoral model, commending the federal Government and federal member states for setting aside their differences.  “This cooperation is essential for long-term stability,” she said, underscoring the critical need for women to participate fully, equally and meaningfully in the election process and to ensure the safety of women running for office.  Expressing concern that there is still no mechanism for ensuring the 30 per cent quota for women, she described reports of conflict-related sexual violence as “utterly unacceptable” and pressed Somali authorities to take immediate steps to protect women and girls from such abuse.  She similarly called on all parties to end grave violations against children and to hold perpetrators accountable.  Condemning in the strongest terms continued attacks by Al-Shabaab on civilians, Government officials and security forces, she went on to encourage the federal Government, the United Nations and the African Union to follow the timelines outlined in resolution 2568 (2021) and to continue working together towards the transfer of security responsibilities from AMISOM to Somalia’s security forces.

ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) acknowledged significant progress made on the political front since the Council last met, calling on all stakeholders to continue their efforts to implement agreements.  While welcoming contacts established between Somalia and Kenya, she expressed concern that the security situation has remained tense, with Al-Shabaab continuing to pose threats.  Calling on the Government and African Union forces not to relent in their efforts, she also stressed the need to secure safety at polling stations.  On the security transition, she said the African Union and the Government must work out a mutually acceptable arrangement to hand over responsibility.  However, such changes must be carefully considered in order to avoid a security vacuum.  As for UNSOM’s mandate renewal, she stressed the importance of State-building, adding that the renewal resolution should send a signal that the electoral process must be completed.

NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) underlined the importance of an inclusive electoral process, especially the participation of women as voters and candidates, calling for compliance with the 30 per cent quota for women’s representation, as well as greater youth participation.  Expressing regret over the lack of progress in the security transition plan, she called on all parties to respect the timeline for security transition set out in resolution 2568 (2021).  She went on to condemn the perpetuation of forced marriage and sexual violence by Al-Shabaab, while noting that the European Union has contributed nearly €2 billion to AMISOM since 2007, which should result in greater operational efficiency.  France, along with the broader bloc, will reassess its contributions to AMISOM while ensuring the Mission’s better coordination with European Union military and civilian missions deployed in Somalia, she said.

DAI BING (China) welcomed the agreement reached on electoral arrangements, as well as the first round of Upper House elections, calling for continued efforts to rebuild peace and hold further elections as agreed and scheduled.  He also commended efforts by Somalia and Kenya to improve bilateral relations, noting that Somalia’s security situation is still fraught with challenges.  Voicing concern over Al-Shabaab attacks against civilians and Somali security forces alike, he encouraged the international community to provide strong support to the Government, notably in capacity‑building, and calling on donors to extend financial support to AMISOM.  For their part, the United Nations and the African Union must strengthen communication and coordination with Somalia, he said, pointing to COVID-19, extreme weather and locust events as among the causes of rising humanitarian concerns.  It is crucial to improve Somalia’s disaster response capacities, he said, adding that China has provided multiple supplies and vaccines to counter the pandemic.

RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) welcomed the electoral progress in Somalia, noting that, in May, the country had faced the most serious bout of political instability in more than 20 years.  He commended the spirit of cooperation among the federal Government and leaders of federal member states in implementing the 17 September 2020 electoral model that led to the May agreement.  Nevertheless, he pointed out that aspects of the process require continued focus and pressed stakeholders to expeditiously conduct Lower House elections and complete election security preparations.  It is also critical to finalize arrangements for meeting the 30 per cent quota for women’s representation in Parliament.  The United States is committed to ensuring that UNSOM and AMISOM are mandated to provide tailored support to Somalia during its political transition, he said, encouraging the Government to establish electoral timelines and continue promoting cooperation with federal member states.

ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) joined other speakers in expressing concern about the threat posed by Al-Shabaab to Government control over its entire territory, institution‑building and Somalia’s security transition plan.  Recognizing the progress made in arms and ammunition management, she underlined that a truly effective strategy must consider the entire life cycle of weapons and implies a shared responsibility among producers, exporters, intermediaries and recipients.  Only a comprehensive approach can tackle the proliferation of weapons that continues to fuel the power of Al-Shabaab.  On UNSOM’s mandate renewal, she highlighted crucial provisions on support to national authorities for the security transition and protecting women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence, and children in armed conflict, as well as on the participation of women in political processes and the need to develop measures to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.

ANDRE LIPAND (Estonia) expressed hope that recent political developments will enable credible, transparent and inclusive elections without further delays.  Estonia strongly supports the development of an agreed pathway to “one person, one vote” elections in 2025, he said, while also stressing the importance of women’s participation and calling for a mechanism to ensure the implementation of 30 per cent quota for women.  He also called on the federal Government to accelerate the adoption of the new National Action Plan for ending sexual violence in conflict, adding that it is crucial for women’s rights to be codified in the revised Constitution and other legal frameworks.  Condemning in the strongest terms continued attacks by Al-Shabaab, he called on key players — including the federal Government of Somalia, United Nations, African Union and the European Union — to develop a common vision for their post-2021 mission, and called on the federal Government to re-double its efforts during the transition period.  Meanwhile, addressing the dire humanitarian situation and climatic shocks must be a priority in the upcoming UNSOM mandate renewal.

ODD INGE KVALHEIM (Norway) said Somalia requires timely, credible and inclusive elections to get back on the reform track and ensure democratic development.  Encouraging Somali leaders to make full use of the United Nations good offices to resolve outstanding electoral issues, she said calls for 30 per cent of Government seats to be filled by Somali women must be heeded.  Quoting from the Somali Women’s Charter, he said that there can be no sustained peace and development without women’s political participation.  He urged all parties to cease and prevent all violations against children, while also suggesting that UNSOM improve its climate-related security risks analysis and reporting.  Turning to AMISOM’s reconfiguration, he encouraged dialogue among the African Union, United Nations, Somali Government and other key actors on the way forward, adding:  “The success or failure of a future, reconfigured AMISOM depends on the timeliness and quality of such a collective discussion.”

T.S. TIRUMURTI (India), Council President for August, spoke in his national capacity, welcoming recent political developments and expressing his hope that presidential elections will take place according to the agreed timeline.  Nonetheless, he voiced concern about the prevailing security situation, as Al‑Shabaab continues to disrupt the electoral process and has killed nearly 100 people in attacks in the last few months alone.  Strongly condemning such actions and extending his full support to the operations being conducted against that group, he expressed support for a phased handover of security responsibilities to the Somali security forces, beginning in 2021 and completing by 2023.  Echoing concerns raised about Somalia’s humanitarian situation, he said projections indicate that 2.8 million people will suffer from food insecurity in 2021 due to drought.  India continues to provide significant support and participated in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) debt relief package for Somalia by agreeing to contribute special drawing rights.

ABUKAR DAHIR OSMAN (Somalia) said the Prime Minister was tasked with managing the election process, aiming to build trust and legitimacy, and tackling such issues as reconciliation, management of the election budget, election security and ensuring broad-based participation.  The federal Government has engaged with federal member states leaders and political stakeholders to ensure consensus around the process.  The National Consultative Council met in June and reached an agreement on security arrangements, safeguarding of the 30 per cent quota for women’s participation and electoral modalities and timelines.  Meanwhile, the federal Government developed an indicative $18.7 million election budget to implement an indirect election process, based on the 17 September 2020 agreement, and set up a treasury account to receive $1.9 million from the Government budget and an estimated $8 million in candidate fee support.  It also signed an agreement with the United Nations to facilitate $7.7 million in donor support.

Outlining additional Government efforts, he said it appointed a committee of political figures from other federal member states to mediate the dispute between Jubaland authorities and community leaders from the Gebel region over how to carry out the election in that state.  The Prime Minister traveled to Kismayo and Gabaharey, where he met with elders, political leaders and civil society actors to lay the groundwork for the reconciliation committee.  The committee then traveled to Gebel and Lower Juba to facilitate an agreement whereby Gebel will select four candidates for the district and deputy district positions.   The Election Management Committee, meanwhile, will be tasked with holding elections in Gabaharey, while AMISOM police provide security support, he said.

Turning to election security, he recalled that the federal Government established an election security committee, consisting of nine members and chaired by the Prime Minister.  All federal member states are represented on the body and were consulted on its formation.  Its budget and operational plan will be approved by the national consultative committee later in August, he said, adding that security sector reform is also gaining momentum while Somali forces continue to make gains in defeating terrorist groups and liberating areas held by them. “AMISOM cannot stay in Somalia forever”, and must continue transitioning its responsibility to Somalia’s security forces, he stressed, adding that all arrangements must be aligned with Government priorities.  The African Union transition mission should work effectively with Somali leaders on the common goal of defeating Al-Shabaab and rebuilding recovered areas.  To win the hearts and minds of Somalis, the revised Somali transition plan must guide any future configuration under the new political governance and security dispensation, he said.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations – Security Council.