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Foreign Office Minister on Somalia

Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham's statement at the United Nations Security Council Somalia Open Debate

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Thank you, Mr President. I am grateful to you for the opportunity to discuss Somalia at such an important time. I would also like to thank Secretary General Ban, AU Special Representative Diarra and Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed for his contribution to this debate.

The United Kingdom government regards Somalia as a key priority.

Listening to your analysis and advice, I am struck by our common desire to end the 20 years of instability that have brought conflict and humanitarian disaster to the people of Somalia, and threatened the people of the region and beyond with piracy and terrorism.

Mr Secretary General you mentioned piracy and the new report by Jack Lang. This is certainly welcome.


In recent weeks, we have seen just how challenging the situation in Somalia is. I would like to commend the African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM, for what it is doing on all our behalves, and in particular on behalf of the Somali people. I join others in paying tribute to the brave soldiers of AMISOM and the professionalism and dedication they have shown in their successful actions against the corrupt and brutal tyranny of Al Shabaab. In particular I would like to express my appreciation to the governments of Uganda and Burundi for the commitment they have shown and I pass on my sincere condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives in the recent fighting.

The bravery of AMISOM troops in making these territorial gains reminds us that AMISOM needs our support and guidance. These gains are indeed fragile. This is not solely about defeating insurgent attacks but also about protecting civilians as best as possible, in line with international humanitarian law. The Force Head Quarters have recently taken steps to improve AMISOM’s capacity to protect civilians. We welcome this but more is needed to ensure AMISOM is sufficiently resourced and continues to make gains. I also welcome the gains in the south.

I am pleased to announce that the UK will shortly make a $3 million uncaveated contribution to the AMISOM UN Trust Fund. I call on other donor countries to make similar, uncaveated contributions.

Mr President, it is clear there is no simple solution to Somalia’s instability, and military efforts alone are not going to bring lasting peace. We need a political process that is legitimate and inclusive, allowing all those Somalis who oppose violence to play a positive role in their country’s future. We encourage the UN and AU to continue to work together to develop a co-ordinated political and military strategy that delivers real benefit to the Somali people.

In under six months’ time, in August 2011, the transitional period is due to come to an end. We cannot allow a political vacuum to develop. But nor can we simply continue with business as usual. Recent efforts to extend the transitional period unilaterally, without meaningful reform or consultation, have not brought consensus. Indeed they have only served to damage the legitimacy and credibility of the TFIs. It is troubling to me to hear about yet another reshuffle of the TFG as this suggests that political infighting is a higher priority for the TFG than reconciliation and the delivery of services to the Somali people.

The UK believes that there should be no extension of the transitional institutions without reforms to make them more representative, legitimate and accountable to the Somali people. There needs to be broad consultation within Somalia and with the international community on what should follow the current arrangements.

I was encouraged to hear Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s remarks about the importance of finding solutions. I therefore encourage us all, under SRSG Mahiga’s leadership, to work more effectively, both with the TFIs, and with regional and local administrations, to bring about a new, more inclusive political arrangement. The UK fully supports SRSG Mahiga in his efforts to negotiate a way forward.

The dire humanitarian situation in Somalia, worsened by drought, underlines the need for concerted action that will ensure a more stable future for the Somali people. I commend the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator’s work and encourage greater support for UN and bilateral humanitarian efforts in Somalia.

Mr President, 2011 marks 20 years since the collapse of the Somali state. For many Somalis, the situation remains desperate and many are forced to flee their homes and their families. A generation of Somali children has grown up without knowing peace; without going to school; without having the simplest opportunities that many of us take for granted. But there are encouraging signs -at a local level, Somalis are working together to establish areas of stability, and to reject acts of extremism, terrorism and piracy. We have an opportunity to help the Somalis build on these initiatives. I believe Somalia is now at a crossroads - the alternative scenario being depressing. This will require us to work together. I believe we all have a responsibility to act. The UK will play its part.

Published 10 March 2011