NATIONAL NEWS

Somalia wants to terminate the UN political mission assisting peace efforts in the country

May 10, 2024, 6:53 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Somalia is asking the United Nations to terminate its political mission in the country, which has been assisting the government to bring peace and stability in the face of attacks by the al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab.

In a letter to the Security Council and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres obtained Friday by The Associated Press, Somali Foreign Minister Ahmed Moalim Fiqi said the decision followed “a thorough consideration of our strategic priorities.”

The current mandate of the mission, known as UNSOM, expires Oct. 31 and Fiqi asked for “the swift conclusion of the necessary procedures for the termination of the mission by the end of the mandate.”

The U.N. mission has worked closely with African Union peacekeepers, whose current transitional mission, ATMIS, has been scaling back its presence and is expected to turn over security responsibilities to Somali forces at the end of the year. In November, the Security Council suspended the AU pullout for three months at Somalia’s request because of fighting with al-Shabab.

Somalia plunged into civil war after feuding clan-based warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. The Horn of Africa nation established a functioning transitional government in 2012 and has been working to rebuild stability in the face of extremist attacks and growing piracy.

Al-Shabab intensified attacks on Somali military bases last year after it lost control of some territory in rural areas to a military offensive that followed the Somali president’s call for “total war” on the extremist group in 2022.

The Security Council established the special political mission, known as UNSOM, in June 2013 to support peace and reconciliation efforts and to provide the Somali government and the AU peacekeeping mission with strategic policy advice on restoring peace and rebuilding a functioning state.

Its mandate also includes promoting human rights and preventing abuses, empowering women, protecting children and preventing conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence.

In the letter dated May 5, Somalia’s foreign minister thanked UNSOM for its “crucial role in promoting peace, stability and development in our country.”

Fiqi said the government believes “it is now appropriate to transition to the next phase of our partnership,” stressing its commitment to collaborate with the U.N. and its partners on the country’s long-term development priorities “and beyond.”

In a follow-up letter dated May 9, also obtained by AP, Fiqi said the Somali government is ready to engage with all relevant parties in preparing for “the complex transition process within the appropriate timeframe.”

He said Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud spoke to Guterres on April 29 and requested the start of a planning process to transition from a political mission to a U.N. country team, which usually focuses on development issues. The process should have distinct stages and planning should start very soon, Fiqi said.

In mid-February, the United States agreed to build up to five military bases for the Somali army in a project that seeks to bolster its capabilities against threats from al-Shabab.

The new bases will be associated with the Somali military’s Danab Brigade, established in 2017 following an agreement between the U.S. and Somalia to recruit, train, equip and mentor 3,000 men and women from across Somalia to build a strong infantry capability within the Somali army.

The brigade has been pivotal as a quick-reaction force in efforts to repel al-Shabab extremists.

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Somalia wants to terminate the UN political mission assisting peace efforts in the country