Somalia: Security Council stresses need for contingency planning for UN mission

Somalia: Security Council stresses need for contingency planning for UN mission

Amb. Johan Verbeke
The Security Council today signalled the need for contingency planning for a new United Nations mission in Somalia, which has been wracked by violent clashes and massive displacement in recent months but where observers also see hope for reconciliation.

The Council, in a Presidential Statement read out by Johan Verbeke of Belgium, which holds the rotating presidency, looked forward to a report from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the issue “by mid-June.”

The statement also emphasized “the urgent need for appropriate contingency planning for a possible United Nations mission to be deployed in Somalia if the Security Council decided to authorize such a mission.”

Speaking to reporters after briefing the Council in closed session, B. Lynn Pascoe, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said the current juncture offers hope for progress in Somalia, which has lacked a functioning government since Mohamed Siad Barre’s regime was toppled in 1991.

“This may be the best chance that Somalia’s had in the last 15, 16 years to actually start moving forward,” he said. “We hope that’s the case. We certainly want to give every help and assistance to that process we can.”

Responding to questions, he acknowledged the complexity of peacekeeping in Somalia, where the UN has fielded successive missions in the past. “Obviously the history of peacekeeping there is a very difficult one,” he said.

Recalling the repeated attacks on the Ugandan troops serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) when they first arrived, he said “that is not necessarily going to have everyone else running to join in a peacekeeping operation.”

Asked how long it might before a new UN peacekeeping force would be deployed in Somalia, he said, “This is a decision for the Security Council; it is not one for the Secretariat to make.” He also noted that all eyes are on the political and national reconciliation process.

The Council statement spotlighted the importance of reconciliation efforts. “The Security Council reiterates its support for the National Reconciliation Congress as a mechanism for much-needed political dialogue and reconciliation in Somalia,” said Mr. Verbeke.

He called on the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the National Governance and Reconciliation Committee “to ensure that the Congress convenes as soon as practicable.”

The gathering must address in a “comprehensive and meaningful manner” issues of political reconciliation, including representation in the Transitional Federal Institutions, the Council said, and it must agree on a roadmap for the remainder of the transitional political process.

The Council statement also voiced grave concern at the recent pattern of attacks by extremist elements in Somalia, including the increased use of explosive devices, and condemned “all attempts to use violence to undermine the political process and prevent the early convening of the National Reconciliation Congress.”

Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have fled fighting in the capital since February, and at least 1,000 are reported to have sustained injuries, according to the UN.