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UN Security Council Demands Results From Somali Government

  • Michael Onyiego

Britain's Ambassador to the U.N. Mark Lyall Grant addresses a news conference at the United Nations offices at Gigiri in Kenya's capital Nairobi, May 25, 2011

Britain's Ambassador to the U.N. Mark Lyall Grant addresses a news conference at the United Nations offices at Gigiri in Kenya's capital Nairobi, May 25, 2011

As the campaign to oust Islamist insurgent group al Shabab intensifies, the U.N. Security Council is warning Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government to resolve its internal differences or lose backing from the international community.

With the internationally approved mandate of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government set to expire in August, the political future of the country is unclear. Neither a new constitution nor national elections have been delivered in the seven years since the TFG was created, as was initially hoped.

Operational failure

In February, the Transitional Federal Parliament moved to unilaterally extend its mandate by an additional three years, much to the dismay of the international community. Now, a rift between the parliamentary speaker and the president has ground government business to a near standstill, making progress toward the fulfillment of its mandate impossible.

Against a backdrop of uncertainty, a delegation from the U.N. Security Council was in Nairobi to discuss Somalia’s future. The delegation held talks Wednesday with the Somali prime minister, president and speaker of parliament.

Late Wednesday, British Representative Mark Lyall Grant said the Security Council’s patience for Somalia’s leadership is wearing thin.

“We set out as the Security Council, a strong and united set of messages," said Grant. "Firstly, they should stop the infighting and unilateral extensions of their respective mandates. Secondly, they should focus on the key transitional tasks to which they had previously been committed.”

Missed benchmarks

Grant highlighted the constitution, outreach and reconciliation, good governance, and corruption as key benchmarks the government has failed to meet.

Much of Somalia’s governmental paralysis stems from an open power-struggle between President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Speaker of Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden. In late March the Transitional Federal Institutions, which include the presidency, voted to extend their mandate for one year, a move that Aden blasted as unconstitutional.

Bickering within the Somali government has been a mainstay of Somali parliament during the term of the transitional government, but it appears as if major backers, such as the United States and United Kingdom, as well as the Security Council, are increasingly frustrated by the situation.

Governmental paralysis

Shortly after the meetings, American Representative Susan E. Rice tweeted “Get your act together, resolve your differences or lose [international] support.”

It appears the future of that support rests in the outcome of a meeting to discuss the end of the transitional mandate that is being convened by U.N. Special Representative on Somalia Augustine Mahiga next month in Mogadishu.

“The international community expects that at that meeting there should be agreement on the timing of elections, road map, benchmarks for the way forward in the political process in Somalia," said Grant. "SRSG Mahiga will be reporting back to the security council following that meeting.”

Lack of consequences

Mahiga is somewhat unpopular with Somali leadership, and it is currently unclear how the announced meeting will be received by Somali lawmakers. A similar meeting was convened last month in Nairobi, but was boycotted by most of the Transitional Federal Government.
Grant said no specific consequences for failing to reach an agreement had been discussed, but assured the media that certain “tools” could be employed. The European Union pays the salaries of the Somali members of parliament, and Grant suggested other sources of funding could be leveraged.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991. The embattled TFG is facing al-Qaida linked insurgent group al Shabab, and controls very little of southern Somalia. With the help of African Union peacekeepers, the government has made recent gains in the capital, Mogadishu, but still controls only part of the city.

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