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UN Envoy Optimistic about Somalia

  • Joe DeCapua

U.N. Special Representative Nicholas Kay briefing the Security Council on Somalia, Sept. 13, 2013.

U.N. Special Representative Nicholas Kay briefing the Security Council on Somalia, Sept. 13, 2013.

The U.N. Special Representative for Somalia says the country is on the “brink of achieving great things” – but warns the situation remains precarious and success is not guaranteed. On Thursday, Nicholas Kay briefed the Security Council for the first time since he assumed the post three months ago.


The Special Representative to the Secretary-General began his briefing by answering the question that he says he hears the most: Is he optimistic about Somalia? The answer, he says, is a “resounding yes.”

“Behind the twists and turns, the crises and the standoffs, Somalia has the foundations for progress. The international community is united behind a credible, legitimate federal government. There are resources available to meet the most immediate needs. There is the political will to compromise and manage disputes without resorting to violence. And the Somali people I have met are tired of war and deprivation, fed up with brinkmanship and predatory politics.”


One of the “key tasks facing Somalia,” he said, is agreement of a final federal constitution.

“The U.N. is supporting a broad process of popular consultations, which should clarify several key areas that remain contentious. A long, hard process of consultation and negotiation lies ahead, which we shall support. On second of September, UNSOM backed the launch of a national political conference entitled Vision 2016, at which the President of Somalia restated his commitment to a new constitution and elections by 2016,” he said.

UNSOM is the U.N. Assistance Mission in Somalia.

The Somali Federal Government has just celebrated its one-year anniversary. Kay says “another key building block” for the country’s stabilization is about to be put in place. The European Union and the Somali government will host some 200 delegates Monday regarding the New Deal Compact. Kay described it as a Somali-led and Somali-owned set of priorities.

Other than politics, much of his focus has been on security. He says UNSOM’s presence in Mogadishu is “to a large extent only possible because of AMISOM” – The African Union Mission in Somalia. It has played the major role in pushing back the Qaeda-linked militant group.

“The military and security dimension of defeating al Shabab in Somalia is by no means over. The Somali national army is ready to do its part and must be properly backed. I call on the Council to ensure more priority is given to strengthening the Somali national security forces and their ability to deploy and sustain joint operations with AMISOM,” said Kay.

While Somalia is no longer called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, it still faces many challenges. Lack of access to insecure areas has led to the spread of polio. Somalia now has at least 160 confirmed cases, half the world’s total.

Kay also said despite some improvements, the food security situation remains precarious.

“For the first time in five years, the number of people in crisis is below one-million, but the number of people on the margin of food insecurity has increased to 2.3-million people. This may be further exacerbated if the lifeline of Somali diaspora remittances is cut by international banks.”

He also addressed the issue of widespread attacks on women and girls in Somalia.

“Sexual violence in Somalia is one of the most serious and urgent human rights challenges facing the government and people. The commitment of both the Somali president and the leadership of AMISOM to a policy of zero-tolerance of sexual abuse is encouraging. However, it is clear that there need to be much more robust systems of investigation and prosecution, including the protection of survivors and witnesses.”

As for piracy, it’s on the decline off the Somali coast. But Kay said the “onshore networks that have profited from it have not been dismantled.”

“Law enforcement and correction systems on land, as well as job opportunities, must be supported so that we treat the root causes of the problem. At a conference hosted by the United Arab Emirates in Dubai, a maritime strategy covering security and sustainable resource management was strongly endorsed,” he said.

International naval patrols have prevented many pirate attacks on cargo ships and oil tankers.

There are still about one-million Somali refugees in neighboring countries. However, the U.N. special representative said it is not time for a full-scale repatriation.

He said for Somali to succeed more resources are needed for U.N. staff, national security forces and AMISOM, adding that “failure in Somalia still is a risk”…a risk the world “cannot afford.”

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