Thank you, Mr. President, thank you, Special Representative Mahiga, for your briefing, and welcome, President Sharif.
Somalia stands at a critical moment in its history. One year ago, al-Shabaab controlled and terrorized large swaths of Somalia, millions were at risk of starvation, and the country’s leaders focused more on feuding amongst themselves than working to improve the condition of the Somali people. One year ago, in Nairobi, this Council delivered a blunt message to the TFG that it risked losing international support, if it did not get its act together and resolve its differences.
Today, Somalia is in a different and better place. But significant challenges lie ahead. The mandate of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) comes to an end in August 2012. Any delay or backsliding in implementing the transition is totally unacceptable. Somalia and the wider region cannot afford to revert to the endless cycles of violence and suffering that have plagued the country and threatened the region for decades.
There are, encouragingly, signs of promise for the country and its people. For the first time in a generation, Somalia has a solid plan for creating a functional state, and the conditions for its implementation continue to ripen. In the last few months, the TFG as well as other Roadmap signatories and the international community have taken important steps to implement the Roadmap to End the Transition, as defined by the Garowe Principles. A draft constitution has been circulated to the Roadmap signatories. Elders have been selected to appoint delegates to the Constituent Assembly and are meeting now to do so.
The security situation across the country has also improved. Areas on the outskirts of Mogadishu and the key cities of Beledweyne, Baidoa, and Huddur in southwestern Somalia have recently been liberated from al-Shabaab. The United States commends AMISOM and the Somali National Security forces for their significant military achievements and security gains. The sacrifices made by AMISOM and Somali troops are testament to their will and dedication to bring peace and stability to Somalia. Reflecting the improved security situation, the UN Political Office for Somalia has returned to Mogadishu. And though the humanitarian situation remains extremely fragile, thanks to the actions of UN humanitarian agencies and NGOs and the generosity of the international community, the famine has substantially abated.
The unanimous adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2036 on February 22 this year, followed by the London Conference on Somalia, demonstrated the strong and unified commitment of the international community to Somalia’s future. The United States welcomes the upcoming Second Istanbul Conference on Somalia, which should push the political transition process further towards completion.
While Somalis, with international support, have made progress, we cannot afford to lose momentum. Critical and difficult work remains and the Somali people will hold the TFG, Roadmap signatories, and other stakeholders accountable for meeting the transition timetable. As the London Conference declared in February, the Kampala Accord deadline is firm: there must be no extension of the TFG’s mandate beyond August 20. The Constituent Assembly should convene to consider and adopt the interim constitution, setting the stage for other important steps, including the appointment of a new, smaller parliament and indirect elections of a speaker and president. Informing Somalis about the draft constitution and the Roadmap implementation process is fundamental to their ultimate success. But, as the Secretary General observes in his report, approval of the interim constitution by the Constituent Assembly will be the beginning, not the end, of the process.
Having noted some of the important progress achieved since this Council visited the region, let me now turn to the significant challenges ahead for Somalia. As we were tragically reminded only two weeks ago by the suicide attack against a parliamentary delegation in Dhusamareb and last month by the suicide bombing at the National Theater, al-Shabaab remains a major threat to the stability of Somalia. Its shocking and ruthless attacks on innocent civilians and its ongoing ban on 17 humanitarian organizations demonstrate its total disregard for the Somali people and disregard for human life. The United States condemns all al-Shabaab terrorist attacks that kill government officials and innocent civilians alike.
Because al-Shabaab will continue to perpetrate terrorism and exploit any opening to sow instability and derail progress in Somalia, expanding security and preventing al-Shabaab from regaining a foothold in stabilized areas is paramount. This requires AMISOM to be fully staffed so that it can fulfil its mandate. The African Union and additional troop contributors should quickly reach agreement on AMISOM’s Concept of Operations. Failure to do so will not only reflect negatively on AMISOM and the African Union, but worse, undermine the security of the Somali people. Moreover, Somali National Security Forces will figure prominently in expanded AMISOM operations, but are hampered by supply shortages and gaps in logistics capacity. Since 2007, the United States has contributed over $106 million to strengthen the Somali security sector. We urge all member states, especially new donors, to help the Somali people take the lead in providing for their own security and to coordinate bilateral support through the TFG-UN-AU co-chaired Joint Security Committee.
Continuing to pressure al-Shabaab and strengthening national and international security forces is necessary but not sufficient for lasting stability in Somalia. Criminal activity that finances terrorism, undermines domestic governance, and distorts the local economy must be addressed as well. In this regard, the United States strongly supports the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia and will continue working with international partners and Somali leaders to end to the scourge of piracy. Similarly, kidnapping for ransom imperils Somalia’s progress and poses an increasing threat to all nations and their citizens. We must work together to strengthen law enforcement and other capacities to prevent hostage-takings and ensure that hostage takers cannot obtain ransoms.
Finally, although the United Nations declared the end of the famine in Somalia in February, the humanitarian situation in southern and central Somalia remains precarious. More than 2.5 million Somalis still need emergency assistance. There are over 980,000 Somali refugees, some of whom have lived in exile for over 20 years. We commend Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Yemen, and other countries in the region for hosting Somali refugees. Since 2011, the United States has committed $1.1 billion to the humanitarian emergency in the Horn of Africa, including more than $260 million expressly for Somalia. The international community must do more to provide immediate life-saving assistance, address the long-term needs of refugees, internally displaced persons, and others affected by drought and conflict, and to build capacity in the region to mitigate the impact of future shocks that we know will come. Millions of lives are at stake.
Mr. President, I want to reiterate our strong support for AMISOM and commitment to work with the international community to help Somalia face these challenges and realize a brighter future. International support, however, cannot be taken for granted. During the next four months, we have a unique opportunity to ensure that Somalia concludes its transition on time, but the onus remains on Somalia’s leaders to seize this moment and establish a strong foundation for peace and stability. The people of Somalia, who have suffered too long, deserve nothing less.
Thank you, Mr. President.