By EDITH M. LEDERER
The U.N. Security Council called on Somalia’s leaders Wednesday to meet “at the earliest opportunity” to break the impasse delaying the holding of elections that had been scheduled for Feb. 8. The council said in a press statement after a closed briefing by U.N. special envoy James Swan that inclusive elections should take place “as soon as possible” in the interest of all Somalis.
Pressure has been growing on Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed since the February elections failed to take place because of the lack of agreement on how the vote should be carried out. Two regional states have said they would not take part without a deal.
Contentious issues in the election process include the formation of the electoral management commission, the selection of commission members for the breakaway region of Somaliland, and the crisis in the Somalia-Kenya border region of Gedo. Critics accuse Mohamed, who is seeking a second four-year term, of delaying the election to extend his current mandate. The president has blamed unnamed foreign interventions.
The council called for the parties to resolve outstanding issues on the basis of an agreement reached last Sept. 17. This was the second appeal this month by the U.N.’s most powerful body for action to organize elections. On March 12, the council urged the federal government and regional states “to organize free, fair, credible and inclusive elections” in accordance with the September agreement “without delay.”
That appeal was in a resolution that authorized the African Union to maintain its nearly 20,000-strong force in Somalia until the end of the year with a mandate to reduce the threat from al-Shabab and extremist groups to enable “a stable, federal, sovereign and united Somalia.”
The council on Wednesday “reiterated their condemnation of terrorist attacks by al-Shabab and reaffirmed their support for the national sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Somalia.” Council members also commended the AU’s role “in promoting dialogue between Somalia’s parties.”
British Ambassador Barbara Woodward, who called for the meeting along with other council members, said Swan told council that Somalia’s electoral process required “urgent attention.” She said the council very much welcomes Swan’s efforts “to bring the parties together and to proceed with elections as soon as possible, but without compromising.”
Somalia began to fall apart in 1991, when warlords ousted dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other. Years of conflict and al-Shabab attacks, along with famine, left this Horn of Africa country of about 12 million people largely shattered. Al-Shabab rebels were ousted from the capital, Mogadishu, in 2011 and have been pushed out of other key cities but still control large parts of southern and central Somalia and often target the capital with suicide bombings.
Source: Associated Press