The Security Council today called on the world community to provide urgently needed equipment to African peacekeepers in Somalia to consolidate recent fragile gains in stabilizing a country torn asunder by factional fighting for the past 20 years.
“The Security Council stresses the importance of predictable, reliable and timely resources for AMISOM,” the 15-member body said in a presidential statement, using the acronym of the African Union peacekeeping mission, during a day-long debate on the Horn of Africa country. It also stressed the need to reinforce the forces of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
“The Security Council calls on the international community to make contributions urgently and without caveats to the UN Trust Fund for AMISOM or directly in support of AMISOM,” it added, underlying shortfalls in a force whose increase to 12,000 troops from 8,000 it authorized in December.
It was a message Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted in a speech at the beginning of the debate, at which some 40 Member States are speaking.
“AMISOM and the TFG need more than authorized troop levels – they need actual troops, equipment and enhanced capacity,” he said, stressing that the African force would be even more effective if it had more resources, including helicopters and support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
“The military gains by the Transitional Federal Government and AMISOM are fragile. The humanitarian situation is dire. Violence continues to rage,” he added of a country that has not had a functioning central government since 1991, and where Al Shabaab Islamist and other rebel groups now control much of the land, especially the south, and areas of Mogadishu, the capital.
The TFG and AMISOM have succeeded in expanding their lines in Mogadishu, and with its ally Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa the TFG has taken control of major southern towns held by insurgents. “We must help them to sustain these gains in order to restore security and deliver basic services, humanitarian aid and support for recovery and reconstruction,” Mr. Ban said.
“The international community must keep its end of the bargain. There are critical gaps in the UN support package to AMISOM, and significant shortfalls of military assets and equipment. I appeal to Member States to increase their contributions to the Trust Fund for AMISOM and to reimburse contingent-owned equipment and troop-contributing countries.”
Somalia’s transitional period was originally scheduled to end in August but the transitional parliament recently extended its mandate, without carrying out necessary reforms, by three years beyond that deadline, by which time it was to enact a new constitution and hold general elections. The Council today urged it to refrain from any further unilateral actions.
It called on the TFG to engage in reaching agreement on post-transitional arrangements “in a more constructive, open and transparent manner that promotes broader political dialogue and participation.”
It also voiced serious concern at the worsening humanitarian situation, compounded by the current drought, which has left some 2.4 million Somalis in urgent need of aid and noted a continuing decline in humanitarian funding for Somalia.
Mr. Ban cited reports that the drought had displaced some 50,000 people during the past two months, while in the central Hiraan region 70 per cent of the population is in crisis and food has not been distributed there since the UN World Food Programme (WFP) was forced to suspend its operations there in January 2010 because of fighting.
“This year’s humanitarian appeal for Somalia seeks $529 million for urgent needs. As of last month, only one quarter of that amount had been funded,” he warned.
On piracy, which has plagued the waters off Somalia’s shores, at times interfering with UN efforts to feed the country’s desperately poor, the Council condemned “in the strongest terms such violence, including hostage taking, murder and other acts of violence against individuals.” It called for a comprehensive response to tackle piracy and its underlying causes.
In calling for today’s debate China, which holds the Council’s monthly presidency for March, noted that pirate attacks soared from 35 in 2005 to 219 last year, and that more than 20 ships with some 700 sailors are still in captivity.
Mr. Ban also noted the underlying causes, calling for an integrated response to piracy based on three pillars: deterrence, development, and security. He has frequently stated that development, by providing alternative job opportunities on shore, forms a central plank in combating the scourge.
“Somalia urgently needs our help. It faces levels of violence, damaging weather conditions and insecurity that would shake even strong countries,” he concluded. “AMISOM and the TFG have made some progress. But they need more support.
“If we reinforce the military gains, provide humanitarian relief and achieve political progress, we can set Somalia on course for greater stability and peace. If we fail, we risk a growing humanitarian crisis, a deteriorating security situation, and a worsening threat to regional peace and stability.”