The situation in Somalia.
Key Representative Assures Speakers 30 Per Cent of Posts in Upcoming Lower House Election Reserved for Women
Welcoming the completion of recent elections to the Upper House of Parliament in Somalia, a senior United Nations official in that country, along with an official of the African Union and a civil society representative, told the Security Council that more must be done to ensure the full inclusion and representation of women in the country’s political system, while also highlighting the serious threat by armed groups to Somalia’s security.
James Swan, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Somalia and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), reported that, in the recent election of the Upper House of the Federal Parliament, women were elected to 14 of the 54 seats, representing 26 per cent of the Senators. “Women’s full inclusion and representation in political life, and in all sectors of life, is key for Somalia’s sustainable peace and development,” he stressed. He urged all stakeholders to move swiftly to conclude the House of the People elections in the Federal Member States, in order to ensure that the full Parliament is elected before the end of this year.
Unfortunately, the security situation in Somalia continues to be volatile, he noted. Al‑Shabaab remains a serious threat to Somalia’s security and is maintaining a high level of activities, including through continued use of improvised explosive devices and an increase in the use of suicide bombers. Implementation of the Somalia Transition Plan for progressive transfer of security responsibilities from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to the Somali Security Forces is advancing but remains behind schedule, he said.
Francisco Madeira, Special Representative of the African Union Commission, Chairperson for Somalia and Head of AMISOM, underlined the importance of strengthening women’s voices, but expressed concern that the 30 per cent quota for women’s seats fell short at 26 per cent. AMISOM is working with the women’s Goodwill Ambassadors and other feminist activists and will continue such efforts to prevail in getting leaders to live up to 17 September and 27 May agreements on the quota, he stressed.
The African Union Peace and Security Council mandated AMISOM to provide assistance to the electoral process, he continued, pointing out that Somalia was the first African Union member State to receive multi‑pronged support including technical experts, advisory support, electoral security and other elements. AMISOM police and their Somali counterparts have continued to secure ongoing elections, also focusing on election related training of 245 security officials to help plan, monitor and coordinate the processes.
Asha A. Siyad, Executive Director, Somali Women’s Leadership Initiative, underscored that the clan‑based political system relegates women’s participation in politics and in public spheres to a limited and insignificant role. The Upper House elections delivered only 26 per cent representation of women, despite advocacy by women leaders. The indirect election disenfranchises almost the entire adult population of Somalia, including women, men, youth, minority community and people with disability, and helps perpetuate the exclusionary political practices. She urged that work be done toward implementing one‑person‑one‑vote elections in 2025 and 2026.
“Participation is our right and it must be safeguarded in the Constitution,” she said, drawing attention to the link between women participation and protection. Further, resources must be provided to strengthen women’s leadership roles, she said. Calling upon the international community and the United Nations to extend full support and cooperation to the new Government, she emphasized that this support should be premised on its inclusivity and participation of women.
As Council members took the floor, many, noting the election of the 14 women Senators, urged Somali leadership to conclude the election process by the end of the year. Others expressed concern over the grave security situation caused by Al‑Shabaab and called for a clear path forward on the configuration of AMISOM and transition to Somali forces.
Ireland’s representative, underlining that women’s participation in political, social and economic life is a game changer, expressed regret that the 30 per cent target for women in the Upper House elections had not been reached. Voicing support for all elections to be concluded by the end of January, she stressed that any further delay risks cost over‑runs and interference from Al‑Shabaab. Condemning that group’s heinous attacks, she said the Somali Government, African Union and United Nations must find a path forward on the future configuration of AMISOM and eventual handover to Somali security forces.
In a similar vein, the representative of the Russian Federation, while calling the Upper House elections and the 26 per cent representation of women an important milestone, urged the Somali Government and the African Union peacekeepers to continue their fight against Al‑Shabaab, in particular during the elections. She further commended AMISOM — a key element of security in Somalia — and welcomed the continuing discussions on the transfer of responsibility for the security in the country from the Mission to the national army. Any decisions about the future of AMISOM should bear in mind Mogadishu’s interests, she said.
Somalia’s representative, reporting that Lower House elections have already begun, assured the Council that federal and state level electoral implementation teams will ensure that at least 82 of the 275 seats will be reserved for women. Election delays, in many respects, have resulted from the need to ensure that all stakeholders are both informed of and accept the process, he said.
Turning to post‑2021 security arrangements, he underlined that the Somalia Transition Plan is a sustainable approach for countering Al‑Shabaab while building Somalia’s core security functions and recovering strategic locations. To this end, the Government has engaged with the African Union Commission and AMISOM to finalize the concept of operations as required by Security Council mandate. Although this process has stalled, he expressed hope that it will resume before the end of 2021.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United Kingdom, India, Tunisia (also speaking for Niger, Kenya and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), Estonia, United States, Viet Nam, Norway, China, France and Mexico.