Top UN Official in Somalia Calls for Comprehensive Approach to Terrorism

In a videoconference with the United Nations Security Council today, Special Representative of the Secretary-General Nicholas Kay, the top UN official in Somalia, called for a “comprehensive political, military and development approach is needed to tackle terrorism in the country.”  Kay added that while challenges remain, Somali’s fledgling institutions had survived a number of crises in the past months suggesting to him that “the dawn of a new era is abundantly evident.”

Map released by AFRICOM in its 2013 posture statement showing governance in Somalia in 2012 and 2013.  One can see the decline in areas reported to be under Al-Shabaab control.

Map released by AFRICOM in its 2013 posture statement showing governance in Somalia in 2012 and 2013. This map does not show the semi-autonomous region Jubaland centered in Kismayo in the country’s south, instead lumping it in with “pro-government” territory.

Still, according to the UN news piece linked to above, the priority outlined for the country remains the establishment of a “new government,” in spite of the work having been done by the various Somali administrations and the international community in the last decade.  This is especially difficult at moment as the majority of the country is broken into a loose confederation, with established power structures separate from the country’s recognized government running most of the northern part of the country.  The regions of Somaliland and Puntland continue to work hard to maintain their largely independent status.  In the country’s south, the semi-autonomous region of Jubaland also has a complex relationship with the central government.

In the meantime, Islamist militants in the country belonging to Al Shabaab, a group claiming to have connections with Al Qaeda, have continued to exploit the lack of coherent government control.  There have been reports of a resurgence in the group’s numbers, which had suffered significant losses to African-led forces and US strikes in the last few years.  More recently, reporting suggested, unsurprisingly, that the Al Shabaab had helped secure income by accepting payoffs from aid agencies.  This would be in keeping with experiences humanitarian groups have previously had in the country.  One of the possible origins of the word “technical” is said to come from UN payoffs to militants in the country to either provide security for or to otherwise ignore aid convoys in the 1990s, which were said to have been labeled as “technical expenses” in budget documents.  The term “technical” is now a colloquialism for a small truck or car of non-military origin with a mounted weapon or weapons used by militants, such as the seemingly omnipresent Toyota Hilux pickup truck.  A new campaign against Al Shabaab is reportedly part of the comprehensive approach suggested by Kay.  This would no doubt be an important step in preparing for credible elections, currently scheduled for 2016.

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