Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Somalia

Ambassador Michele J. Sison
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
April 13, 2017



Thank you, Ambassador Umarov, for your briefing. We warmly welcome you in your new role as chair of the Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee and have full confidence in your ability to lead the committee as it oversees the important role these sanctions play in advancing peace and security in the Horn of Africa. I would also like to thank the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group for its efforts to report on the implementation of these sanctions and to keep the Council and the sanctions committee informed on a range of issues affecting the Horn of Africa, including counter-al-Shabaab efforts, corruption, piracy, international human rights and humanitarian law violations, and violations of the sanctions measures.

Turning first to Somalia, your briefing highlighted many of the ongoing reasons why this Council must remain committed to supporting Somali efforts to pave the way toward a stable, prosperous, and peaceful future. We share your concern, Ambassador Umarov, about the ongoing threat al-Shabaab poses to Somalia and the region.

Today we are witnessing increasing depravity from al-Shabaab as they intensify their asymmetric attacks against civilian targets, security services, and government officials. We must maintain robust counter-al-Shabaab efforts to prevent backsliding on the tentative security gains achieved in recent years.

The cycle of violence in Somalia and the region cannot be broken without good governance. We strongly support President Farmaajo’s and Prime Minister Khayre’s focus on combatting corruption, and welcome the new Federal Government of Somalia’s financial disclosure and code of conduct requirements for ministers.

We are ready to lend greater support to strengthen the federal government’s fiscal transparency and oversight efforts. We support the use of sanctions as a tool and as part of a comprehensive UN strategy to deter violence and corrupt activities. We welcome President Farmaajo’s call for security sector reform and encourage improved, transparent, and inclusive governance.

It is imperative that Somali resources benefit all Somalis, that Somali security services are well trained and adequately compensated, and that security forces respect human rights and are held to high standards of accountability.

On the arms embargo, we urge the Federal Government of Somalia and Member States to increase their efforts to comply with existing measures and to notify the committee promptly when making use of the relevant exemptions when supporting Somali security sector institutions. We are particularly keen to understand more about the potential plans by a Member State to build a military base in Berbera and the discovery of 25,000 blank-firing pistols in the port of Kismayo.

We urge the Federal Government of Somalia and Member States to redouble their efforts to implement the embargo and share information in order to ensure weapons do not fall into the hands of al-Shabaab or others with malicious intent.

We also encourage the Joint Verification Team to continue to make progress on its important goal of improving Federal Government of Somalia weapons and ammunition management. Illegal activities such as illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and illicit trade in charcoal contribute to corruption and instability in Somalia and the region. As the chair raised in his briefing, we continue to express our concern over illicit, unreported, and unregulated fishing in Somali waters, which poses a threat to coastal communities’ livelihood and food security. We welcome any Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group reporting on the recent uptick in piracy activity as well as on the nexus between illicit, unreported, and unregulated fishing and piracy.

On the illicit charcoal trade, while the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group has reported some indication that al-Shabaab may be shifting away from this trade, we still believe the group is attracted to this kind of financing. Member States should remain vigilant, cooperative, and actively share information as it relates to the charcoal ban in order to more robustly enforce it.

Turning to Eritrea, this Council will have a number of serious issues on its agenda to consider as it prepares for the upcoming review of UN sanctions on Eritrea. These include the need for a full and transparent accounting of the whereabouts of remaining Djiboutian prisoners of war, assessing the extent of Eritrea’s arms embargo violations, Eritrea’s support for armed groups which seek to destabilize the region, and the extent to which Eritrea is willing to cooperate with the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group.

Related to Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group and Government of Eritrea cooperation, it will be important for the Monitoring Group to travel to Eritrea with the chair during his proposed visit to the region. Without Eritrea’s engagement with the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group, including allowing the Monitoring Group to visit Asmara, this Council will not be able to make a fully informed decision about the future of these sanctions.

We believe that only through open dialogue here and in Asmara can we address remaining peace and security challenges. We sincerely hope that the Government of Eritrea will seize the opportunity to take a first step towards improving engagement with the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group through this proposed visit.