The United Nations' top diplomat in Somalia, Nicholas Kay, says the country is steadily transforming from a failed state to a recovering one, as he addressed a special session of the U.N. Security Council on Somalia.
In his final briefing to the Council after more than two years as the U.N.’s envoy in Somalia, Kay told the council that the transformation in Somalia is "well advanced" and said the country is moving away from the chaos that it has experienced for more two decades.
“At last, Somalia is facing the problems of a country coming together rather than falling apart,” Kay said.
While Kay highlighted some of the successes the country has seen in recent years, he said that next year will be a decisive year on several fronts.
He said elections in 2016 will be a test of the country's ability to keep improving and said the vote must be conducted on time and be more inclusive than 2012's vote.
Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told VOA in July that it is likely his government will not hold popular, direct, elections next year, due to continuing insecurity in the country. He said that "one person, one vote" elections will not be possible under the current circumstances. However, he said "there are different phases and different models for elections, and we are aiming for the next best option, but we have not yet agreed on a format to transition in 2016."
Several options for elections have been circulated by Somali researchers and think tanks, including an indirect poll where selected voters pick parliament members who will then vote for a president.
While Somalia's security situation has improved in recent years, the government is still battling al-Shabab militants, who despite being pushed into the countryside carry out frequent attacks, often targeting government officials and African Union troops. In recent months, the militants have blown up several Mogadishu hotels, detonated a bomb on the grounds of Somalia's presidential palace, and overrun several African Union peacekeepers' bases in Somalia.
On the list of achievements in Somalia, Kay cited the government's work on organizing the country’s numerous regions into states. He said the work is slowly progressing and urged a “swift conclusion” to that process.
The envoy also noted that no major commercial ship has been seized by pirates off Somalia's coast for more than three years. At the height of crisis, Somali pirates were attacking dozens of ships each month and receiving multi-million dollar ransoms to release hijacked vessels and their crews.