On visit to Somalia, Senior UN official encourages acceleration of the electoral process


Mogadishu – Wrapping up a five-day visit to Somalia, a senior United Nations official today called on the Somali leadership to accelerate efforts towards the completion of the country’s electoral process.

“It is important that we complete this process to enable the peace and stability of Somalia to take off in a meaningful way,” the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Africa, Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, said in Mogadishu.

The recently-appointed UN official, who holds responsibility for the continent of Africa at the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Department of Peace Operations (DPPA-DPO) in New York, was in the Horn of Africa country as part of a familiarization visit.

“I’m here to familiarize myself with the UN operations, and also to have discussions with the government, the leadership of Somalia, civil society organizations, especially women and youth, who, as you know, the United Nations works closely with on the ground,” she said.

Government meetings

In Mogadishu, her schedule earlier in the week included meeting Prime Minister Mohamed H. Roble and other senior officials of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), including the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mohamed Abdirizak.

Somalia’s parliamentary elections were among the topics discussed. The country is completing the vote for its Upper House and beginning those for the Lower House, known as the House of the People.

“To underscore the United Nations’ continued support for a Somali-led, Somali-owned process – that was a fundamental message – that we are with them, and we intend to work with them to the very conclusion of whatever processes we need to do to make this country viable, to make this country stable, to ensure peace for its citizens and sustainable development that reaches every member of the community,” Ms. Pobee said, adding that ensuring the minimum 30 per cent women’s quota for parliamentary representation in the elections was also discussed.

The UN official was keen to visit one of Somalia’s Federal Member States (FMSs), and, on Tuesday, she journeyed to the city of Baidoa in South West State. She met there with the Acting President of South West State, Ali Said Fiqi, and other senior officials of the FMS’s administration.

“I would like to commend South West State for being one of the first Federal Member States that successfully completed the elections to the federal Upper House. I would also like to call on the leaders to conduct the House of the People elections without further delays in a peaceful, transparent and inclusive manner,” she said in media remarks there.

Civil society’s role

In her meeting with representatives of Somali women leaders in Mogadishu, Ms. Pobee highlighted the importance of the country’s women’s taking part in all spheres of the country’s public life.

“I got a clear sense that they know exactly what the significance of their participation is. They have very clear ideas on political processes, on what this country needs to go forward. And I think there’s also a keenness to participate,” she said.

“I also urged them to speed up the process of the elections on the issue of representation of women, the commitment to reaching the 30 per cent quota,” Ms. Pobee added. “We have managed to attain 26 per cent, but it is important, particularly in the Lower House elections, to ensure that we meet that target.”

In her meeting with Somali youth representatives, the UN official noted that youth represent the majority of Somalia’s population and have a critical role to play in their country’s progress, in areas ranging from politics to development, education to human rights and more.

“The youth are 70 per cent, people the age of 30 and below, and they’re therefore an important, really important, segment of the society, of the country. And as a group, they necessarily have to be included in the development process and in political processes,” Ms. Pobee said. “True participatory democracy cannot advance if these very important segments of the society are left out.”

While in the Somali capital, Ms. Pobee also met with senior officials from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), members of the Council of Presidential Candidates and representatives of the international community.

Wararka La Xiriira