posted on Thu 14 Aug 2014 4:48 PM
Dispatches from the Field: Security Council Concludes Visiting Mission to Horn of Africa

Mogadishu and Nairobi – (13 August) Last night Council members ended their visiting mission to Europe and Africa. During the trip, Council members visited five countries in five days and met with three presidents and two prime ministers; several other high-level government officials; presidents and other officials of the International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court and international criminal tribunals; representatives of the UN, the AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD); internally displaced persons; and a number of civil society actors.

Mogadishu, Somalia

Council members arrived early yesterday morning in Mogadishu, where they were greeted on the airport tarmac by an AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) honour guard and the music of the Somalia Police band. This Council mission to Somalia, the first since 1994, was co-led by Deputy Permanent Representative Usman Sarki (Nigeria) and Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant (UK). Among the issues covered during a series of meetings in Mogadishu were the military operations against Al-Shabaab and the need to consolidate military gains, the situation for women and children, as well as the dire humanitarian situation in Somalia.

Briefing by AMISOM and UNSOM officials
Council members received a briefing from high-level AMISOM and UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) officials in the morning. UNSOM argued that the mission is cost effective and that it has been making progress in several ways. In particular, the mission’s role in offering good offices, providing technical support for the government and helping to coordinate international assistance for Somalia through the New Deal Compact was highlighted.

UNSOM and AMISOM officials also noted some of the challenges ahead, including the need to make the country’s move toward federalism a more inclusive process. The importance of ensuring that the president, the prime minister and the parliament coalesce around a plan to move Somalia forward rather than allowing its future to be held hostage to differences amongst them was also highlighted. It was suggested that the military gains that had been made of late by AMISOM needed to be consolidated with a peace dividend provided to those in areas freed from Al-Shabaab rule. Also on security issues, the need to strengthen the capacity of the Somalia national security forces was emphasised. In addition, there was great concern expressed regarding the dire humanitarian situation facing the country.

Meetings with the President
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told Council members that he was grateful for the UN’s long-term engagement with Somalia. He shared his views on a number of political, security and human rights issues with Council members. On political matters, Mohamud reported that he, Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed and the parliament shared common ground on the need to move the country forward, and that the quality of the members of parliament had been improving. He also acknowledged that the role of women in public life had traditionally been weak in Somalia, and that something needed to be done to address this challenge.

On security matters, Mohamud underscored the importance of the military campaign against Al-Shabaab, as well as the cooperation between AMISOM and the Somali National Army (SNA) in the campaign. He expressed his concerns with the work of the Somalia/Eritrea Monitoring Group, which has been critical of Somalia’s management of its armaments since exemptions to the arms embargo were authorised by the Council in March 2013. He argued that the Monitoring Group operated in an accusatory manner, while complaining as well about the leaking of its reports prior to public release. From the discussion, it also appeared that the government has the perception that the Monitoring Group has delved into public financing in an intrusive, unwarranted manner. (These claims have been an ongoing point of contention between the Monitoring Group and Somalia. The coordinator for the Group has, however, stood firmly by the accuracy of its reporting.)

Three Council members raised concerns about the impact of the conflict on children in Somalia. Mohamud said that the SNA was collaborating with the UN to implement two action plans—one on the use and recruitment of children and the other on killing and maiming of children -signed in 2012. It was noted that with the help of a joint UNSOM-UNICEF task force, efforts were being made to assess whether children are being used in or recruited for combat; if they are, according to Mohamud, they are reintegrated back into society. Ostensibly the killing and maiming of children occurs in the midst of military operations against Al-Shabaab. (The Secretary-General’s latest report on children and armed conflict released on 15 May documents the arrest and detention of 1,009 children by the SNA, including during operations against Al-Shabaab, in 2013.)

Several other high-ranking government officials were present at the meeting with Mohamud, including the prime minister and ministers of foreign affairs, defence, interior and federal affairs, finance, and culture and higher education, among others.

Meeting with the Speaker of Parliament
Mohamed Osman Jawari, the speaker of the parliament, was optimistic about the current relations between the executive and legislative branches. He said that the two branches were working together to develop a common legislative agenda. One of the priorities, according to Jawari, would be a law on political parties to structure the political landscape. Another would be a law on the establishment of a national human rights commission. Other laws that might be discussed as part of this agenda would address citizenship, national and regional administration, and the status of Mogadishu.

Meetings with Women’s Groups and Humanitarian Actors
After a working lunch at the UK embassy that focused on the security sector, Council members had the choice of attending one of two simultaneously held meetings: one on the theme of women, peace and security with women’s groups, another with local humanitarian groups.

The women, peace and security meeting was chaired by Lyall Grant. Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia Fatiha Serour spoke of the importance of enhancing women’s economic empowerment and eradicating sexual and gender based violence in Somalia. She also stressed the need for women to have a greater role in political life.

The women’s groups engaged substantively with Council members, expressing their concerns about a number of issues. One criticism was that the UN is supporting “male dominated institution building” in Somalia, a top-down approach that gives short shrift to women. Access to micro-finance, property ownership and education were described by representatives of the women’s groups as important vehicles to women’s empowerment. Concerns about sexual violence were also raised. One participant said that women who are raped are stigmatised. Sometimes they are even forced to marry the men who rape them. It was noted as well that rape committed by men in uniform was particularly prevalent.

Sarki chaired the meeting with local humanitarian groups. At the outset of the meeting Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Somalia and Humanitarian Coordinator Philippe Lazzarini addressed the assembled Council members and humanitarian actors. He described an urgent humanitarian situation in Somalia in which aid is needed to avert a possible famine. He also reiterated a theme from earlier in the day by arguing that military operations to liberate towns need to be followed up by stabilisation efforts. A civil society representative at the meeting drew a clear link between the lack of adequate support for humanitarian efforts and instability in Somalia.

Before the Council left Mogadishu for Nairobi, Ambassadors Lyall Grant (UK) and Sarki (Nigeria) and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia and head of UNSOM, Nicholas Kay, gave a press conference. Lyall Grant told the media that Somalia had made remarkable progress in the last couple of years and that it is now a place of hope. While recognising that the country continues to face many challenges, he underscored that the Council was impressed by the unity of purpose that is being demonstrated by the president, the prime-minister, the UN and the AU in Somalia. On behalf of the Council, he paid tribute to the work of UNSOM and AMISOM, and recognised Somalia’s appreciation for the international support provided to the country. Sarki noted how important it is for the legislative and executive branches to work together for the country’s welfare. Kay said that the UN would continue to support Somalia’s efforts to create a federal system.

Somali press asked questions regarding whether funding would be provided for the Somali army, with one journalist stating that the army needs better salaries and accommodation, in line with those received by AMISOM troops. Lyall Grant commented that while AMISOM had been providing training to the security forces, it was not the responsibility of the international community to underwrite the army, as this could promote a culture of dependency over the long term.

Nairobi, Kenya

Meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta
Upon arriving in Nairobi from Mogadishi, the Council traveled directly to the State House to meet with President Uhuru Kenyatta. The focus of the meeting was the situation in South Sudan. Kenyatta noted that the crisis in South Sudan is of great concern to IGAD. Rather than focusing on who was responsible for the conflict, he apparently emphasised the urgent need for a durable ceasefire and for humanitarian aid to make its way to people in need. It seems that he also indicated that it is important for the Council to have a unified voice on addressing the situation in South Sudan.

Meeting with IGAD Council of Ministers
Pressed for time, as they needed to catch their flight back to New York via Paris, Council members held a brief but constructive meeting with the IGAD Council of Ministers. IGAD officials emphasised the need for the warring parties in South Sudan to sign the matrix focusing on the details of implementing the cessation of hostilities and to develop in earnest plans for a transitional government of national unity. They also emphasised that IGAD would send a strong message to the parties to end the conflict at its upcoming summit in Nairobi, which is expected to be held later this month. One of the ministers called on the Security Council to remain firm and committed to resolving the South Sudan crisis, especially given the prospect of a looming famine and the dire suffering this will cause.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Lyall Grant emphasised the Council’s resolve to compel the parties to comply with their agreements to stop fighting and form a government of national unity. To emphasise this resolve, he read from a presidential statement that the Council had adopted on 8 August (S/PRST/2014/16) in which it expressed “its readiness to consider, in consultation with the relevant partners, including IGAD and the African Union, all appropriate measures, including targeted sanctions, against those who take action that undermines the peace, stability, and security of South Sudan, including those who prevent the implementation of these agreements.”