U.S. Mission to the United Nations: Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Somalia
Ambassador Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 9, 2015
Thank you, Mr. President. And Foreign Minister Hammond, let me thank you for convening this meeting and for the United Kingdom’s deep commitment to stability and democracy in Somalia.
Thank you, Prime Minister Sharmarke, for joining us today and for your leadership. Special Representative Kay, thank you for your dedicated work – all that you’ve given over the years and all of the risks you’ve taken for Somalia. And thank you, Ambassador Antonio for all the AU has invested in and sacrificed for Somalia.
At the end of August, Mogadishu experienced something it had not in years: an international book fair. More than a thousand people came from around the country and abroad. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was one of them. They bought books, attended readings, participated in panels, and discussed issues ranging from literature to education to local governance. According to one report, more than half the books sold were written by women.
That such an event could occur, and that so many people would attend, demonstrated just how much is changing in Mogadishu. Locals recalled the open air book fairs that used to take place during the 1980s. One said, “With events like this, Mogadishu is gradually reclaiming its image.” A Somali who travelled from the northern city of Hargeisa told a reporter, “It is my seventh time in Mogadishu. This time it is different. So much creativity and talent displayed in one place. It is beautiful being here.”
The change underway in Somalia is real. We all know the fragility of the political transition, and we all know the horrors still being inflicted by the terrorist group al Shabaab, which continues to assault Somalia’s government and its people. But it is important to recognize that there have been security and economic gains, and that these gains are meaningful and important. The international community’s focus now must be to build and sustain momentum on two critical and interconnected fronts: improving security through increased military and police pressure on al Shabaab, and improving governance by supporting accountable government institutions.
Thanks to the perseverance and sacrifice of African Union soldiers, and with support from the UN Support Office for AMISOM, UNSOA, the territory that al Shabaab controls is shrinking while government authority is expanding – as seen, for instance, in the recapture of key towns like Baardheere and Dinsoor. But while al Shabaab is diminished, its brutal strikes on civilians in Mogadishu and large-scale attacks against AU peacekeepers demonstrate that it is not defeated.
Fulfilling that mission will require the continued partnership between the UN and the African Union. Resolution 2245 will help ensure that the UN, through the renamed UN Support Office in Somalia, improves its logistics support to AMISOM, the Somali National Army, and the UN Mission in Somalia. The recently completed UNSOA strategic review identified key ways to improve our support to the political transition, and we very much appreciate the United Kingdom's leadership in addressing the report’s recommendations with this resolution.
The number of personnel supported by UNSOA had more than quadrupled, to over 33,000. The area of operations had increased 4,000 times over. It is extremely important that the changes in Resolution 2245 have now taken account of these new circumstances and these new responsibilities.
Maintaining momentum on the security front will require continued bilateral support for the AMISOM mission. These African troops fighting for Somalia’s future have achieved major successes, but not without significant costs – first and foremost the scores of AMISOM troops who have given their lives to this important mission, and whose sacrifice we deeply respect and honor. The United States will remain a steadfast partner of the AMISOM troop-contributing countries, providing equipment, pre-deployment training, and other assistance. And as we do with UN peacekeeping operations, we will continue to urge that AMISOM investigate reports of serious violations or abuses of human rights, including those that involve killing of civilians, sexual exploitation, and abuse – and that AMISOM hold those responsible accountable.
Ultimately, lasting security in Somalia will come through the development of a professional and effective Somali National Army that respects human rights and civilian control. The United States has provided some $300 million in training and other support, and we will continue to help the Somali National Army build capacity so that it can defend its people.
But a new Somalia will not come through military force alone, needless to say, and improving governance in Somalia must be a huge and urgent priority. The security gains of AMISOM and the SNA have created a historic opportunity. It is now up to Somalia’s political leadership to seize it, and with the help of the international community, to lead the transition to a stable, national, and representative government.
Toward that end, we welcome President Hassan Sheikh’s repeated commitments to hold elections in 2016 – commitments that have been reiterated by his administration, the parliament, and regional officials. We urge the Somali government to work with the international community to ensure a process that is free, fair, and ultimately represents the will of the Somali people – including internally displaced persons and refugees.
We also appreciate the President’s public commitment to improving accountability and transparency in the security sector. The same high standard must be rigorously applied across the entire public sector. There can be no tolerance for corruption, fraud, or abuse within the government or the electoral process. Such misconduct will threaten the entire transition. The Somali people deserve a government that puts the public’s needs first, and which is committed to serving all Somalis.
The Mogadishu International Book Fair points to the readiness of Somalis to put war behind them. As one of the Book Fair’s organizers said, “next year will be bigger and better, God willing.” He was referring to the Fair, but his words ring equally true for his country. Somalia’s future can be bigger and better, if security and political progress continues. The United States stands alongside Somalis in their determination to see this happen.