Security Council discusses revised UN presence in Somali capital

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The UN Security Council on Thursday discussed a revised United Nations presence in Somalia to support recent political gains and to address the urgent ongoing humanitarian and human rights situations in the Horn of Africa country.

"This period of transformation, with its opportunities and challenges, requires a step change in the United Nations support to peacebuilding in Somalia," the UN assistant secretary-general for political affairs, Taye-Brook Zerihoun, told the 15-nation Security Council.

Zerihoun said he supported UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's recommendation in his latest report to establish a broader peacekeeping mission in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, "to simultaneously provide enhanced support to peacekeeping and to meet other development and humanitarian objectives."

The new mission would include good offices, advice and assistance on security, peacekeeping and state-building, the preparation of elections, human rights and the rule of law, and assistance for the coordination of international assistance, Zerihoun said.

The recommendation follows an integrated strategic assessment conducted late last year, building on discussions with Somali authorities, the African Union, civil society and international partners in Somalia and Kenya.

The UN entities working on Somalia, including the UN Political Office (UNPOS) and UNSOA, which provides logistics for the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia (AMISOM), are due to steadily relocate to Somalia over the next six to 12 months, Zerihoun said.

Last month, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman met with key Somali and UN officials during a visit to Somalia. He said that the war-torn country was undergoing a "profound transformation" and needs a better coordinated and coherent response from the international community.

Also speaking to the Security Council on Thursday, Somali Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fawzia Y. H. Adam reiterated her government's "strong position that there must be an integrated mission" in Mogadishu to assist the humanitarian situation, which remains critical for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by fighting.

Adam also requested that the Council lift the 20-year-old UN arms embargo to allow Somali Defense Forces, supported by AMISOM, to fight Al-Shabaab and other militant groups.

"Getting rid of the remnants of the Al-Shabaab is a top priority for us," she said, adding that the government would put in place necessary mechanisms "to ensure that armaments do not fall into the wrong hands."

Zerihoun had said that relaxing the arms embargo "would take a calibrated approach based on all the factors," including support for the Somali forces while avoiding proliferation of uncontrolled weapons.

Somalia marked a historic political watershed last August when it swore-in the first formal parliament. The event ended a so- called "transition" phase which had begun with the 2004 launch of a UN-backed interim government after Somalis had been without a functioning government since the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

"There is now a tangible sense of security and optimism in Mogadishu," Zerihoun said. He cautioned, however, that the security sector needs development in parallel with enhanced support for the judiciary and respect for human rights, in particular to deal with ongoing threats to journalists and the incidents of sexual violence. Endi

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