UN envoy calls on Somalia’s new leaders to address pressing challenges

The UN envoy to Somalia on Monday urged the country to build on last week’s election of a new president and work towards national reconciliation, improving relations between the central government and states and addressing the growing threat from the extremist group al-Shabab.

James Swan called the conclusion of Somalia’s “unnecessarily lengthy and contentious” electoral process “an important milestone for the country”, and told the UN Security Council it is time for leaders to address these and other pressing issues.

The envoy said he met with Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, three days after his election on May 15, to hear about his goals. They include completing constitutional and judicial reforms, completing electoral laws, ensuring compliance with debt relief conditions and giving urgent attention to the “severe drought,” he said.

Swan called this “a moment of opportunity” and said the entire UN system in Somalia is ready to work with the new government to support these goals.

The election of Mohamud, who served as Somalia’s president from 2012-2017, ended a long-delayed election process. Political tensions and concerns about insecurity had increased after President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s mandate expired in February 2021 with no successor in place.

Mohamud defeated Abdullahi Mohamed in a secret ballot by members of both houses of parliament.

No sitting president has ever been elected to two consecutive terms in the Horn of Africa, where rival clans fight intensely for political power. And no former Somali president had ever staged a successful return to office until Mohamud’s election.

Only in recent years has Somalia found its footing after three decades of chaos from warlord fighting and violence caused by the al-Qaeda-affiliated extremist group al-Shabab and the rise of Islamic State-affiliated extremist groups.

Swan called the current security situation in the country “very unstable”, saying that al-Shabab had been encouraged by domestic political tensions in recent months and had carried out attacks in the capital Mogadishu, the Southwestern state and Hirshabelle.

US President Joe Biden signed an order a day after Mohamud’s election to redeploy hundreds of US troops to Somalia to counter al-Shabab, which is considered the largest and wealthiest arm of the extremist organization Al-Qaeda. US military leaders said this effort was hampered by President Donald Trump’s decision late in his term to withdraw troops from the country.

African Union Special Representative Francisco Madeira told the council that Somalia’s new president in his election manifesto “emphasized the liberation of the country from al-Shabab”, opening key supply routes and ensuring security forces do not interfere in politics.

The peaceful transfer of power creates conditions for fostering national political dialogue and deepening reconciliation, Madeira said in a video briefing. He added that he was pleased that the new government is already involving regional leaders on crucial national issues.

With a newly elected parliament and president, Madeira said, “the doors are now open for a new chapter in Somalia’s history to be written.”

He said the Somali people have the opportunity to reconcile among themselves, end war and bring peace to the country, promote its economic development “and restore Somalia to its former glory and beyond.”

Swan warned, however, that Somalia is facing a deteriorating humanitarian situation after the failure of the fourth consecutive rainy season, another major problem.

He said 6.1 million people are now affected by drought and six communities are at risk of famine if food prices continue to rise and humanitarian aid falters.

He called for urgent contributions, saying that nearly halfway through the year, the UN’s $1.45 billion humanitarian appeal for Somalia has only been 15% funded.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that after more than four years of political infighting, reconciliation between the new administration and states is vital to address serious challenges. She said this also includes facing the “imminent threat” of al-Shabab, which means “relieving the horrific humanitarian conditions that inspire extremism”.

She also urged the new government and the international community to ensure Somalis don’t go hungry or thirsty, and warned the country could be pushed “over the brink of famine” if Russia’s war on Ukraine continues. prevent wheat and other foodstuffs from reaching the land. Somalia.

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