UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The United Nations special envoy for Somalia on Thursday reported “significant progress” in implementing an agreement between the federal government and regional countries aimed at holding long-awaited national elections, but said greater efforts were needed to ensure electoral security in light of the threat The persistence of the extremist youth group.
James Swan told the UN Security Council that in the wake of the May 27 agreement, Prime Minister Hüseyin Roble had shown “strong leadership and initiative in moving the process forward” and held regular meetings with leaders of countries in the region on key issues.
Pressure increased on Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed after the failure of the elections scheduled for February 8 due to a lack of agreement on how to conduct the vote. Two countries in the region said they would not participate without an agreement.
Talks between the federal government and regional leaders that began in March collapsed in early April. At the request of the president, the House of Representatives adopted a special law extending the terms of incumbents for two years and abandoned the September 17, 2020 agreement on indirect elections, returning instead to a one-person, voting model.
Those decisions sparked widespread opposition, leading to the mobilization of militias, exposing divisions within the Somali security forces, and the outbreak of violent clashes on 25 April.
After the clashes, President Mohamed on May 1 asked the House of Representatives to reverse its measures that included extending his term for two years.
He asked lawmakers to support the agreement the federal government reached with regional states last September 17 on the way to proceed with the vote, and asked Prime Minister Rupel to lead preparations for the elections and related security measures. This led to the May 27 agreement to hold indirect elections this year.
Swan told the council that “after a long period of uncertainty and rising tensions, Somalia’s long-awaited elections are now moving forward, albeit somewhat behind schedule.”
“Ensuring that this process continues to progress, is comprehensive and credible, will require sustained efforts by all parties involved, and continued leadership by the signatories to the May 27 agreement,” he said.
State and federal election management bodies have been established, Swan said, and elections for upper house seats in parliament have begun in four states. He noted that meetings were held to prepare for the elections in Gedo, and the prime minister appointed an advocacy committee to achieve a 30% quota for women in the 2021 federal elections.
The UN special representative said he was “particularly concerned that unless strong measures are taken now, the women’s quota may not be met”.
Three decades of chaos, from warlords to al-Qaeda’s al-Shabab movement and the emergence of a group linked to the Islamic State, has torn apart a country that only in the past few years has begun to find a foothold.
Swan said that “preparations for election security are essential” due to “terrorist attacks and insurgent operations by al-Shabab, including the encirclement of communities, especially in the southwestern state of the United States.”
So far this year, he said, the UN political mission in Somalia has recorded reports of 321 civilian deaths, most of which were attributed to Al-Shabab.
“There are also alarming increases in sexual violence and abuse against children that are being recorded and remain a priority area of concern for the United Nations,” Swan said.
Ambassador Francisco Madeira, Special Representative of the President of the African Union in Somalia, told the Council in a briefing video that the African Union “remains committed to contributing to strengthening the capacity of Somali security institutions” which he considers “the only way for Somalia to achieve sustainable control over the security of its country.”