Somali Government's decision regarding the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) has raised several unaddressed questions

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA — In a move that has taken the international community by surprise, the Somali government has formally requested the United Nations to conclude its political mission in Somalia (UNSOM) as its mandate nears expiration in October. This request signifies a bold step by the Somali authorities toward greater political autonomy but raises questions about the implications for Somalia’s future.

Since its inception in 2013, UNSOM has played a pivotal role in advising the Somali government on peace-building, security reforms, and democracy. With a substantial annual budget of $100 million, its efforts have been crucial in a nation struggling to overcome continuous conflict and an insurgency that has persisted since 1991.

The current administration under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has expressed intentions to centralize authority, a move underscored by recent constitutional amendments and other significant reforms. The government’s decision to end the UNSOM mandate reflects a broader strategy to assert more control over its political and security affairs without external oversight.

Impact of UNSOM’s Departure

The withdrawal of UNSOM could have profound implications on Somalia’s security landscape and its ongoing efforts to stabilize and rebuild. The mission has not only provided essential coordination with the international community but also maintained a balance between the federal government’s agenda and the autonomy aspirations of individual states.

Analysts like Matt Bryden from the Sahan think tank suggest that the end of UNSOM’s mandate might lead to more unilateral initiatives by the federal government of Somalia (FGS), particularly concerning constitutional revisions, federalism, and elections. This shift could potentially heighten tensions within the already fragile state and disrupt the delicate political balance that UNSOM helped to maintain.

Questions and Concerns

The decision to terminate UNSOM has sparked a flurry of questions about the readiness of Somali authorities to handle their affairs independently. Critics argue that despite some progress, the Somali government has not yet achieved the political stability or security control necessary to justify the dismissal of the U.N. mission. Recent setbacks in military operations against militants and ongoing political instability are sources of significant concern.

Fahad Yasin, a prominent Somali political figure, voiced concerns on social media, questioning the timing and wisdom of this decision. According to Yasin, the move raises unresolved issues about the country’s capacity to sustain achievements without UNSOM’s support, notably the management of the upcoming electoral processes slated for 2026.

Looking Forward

As Somalia prepares to take this significant step, the international community remains watchful. The end of the U.N.’s political mission will test Somalia’s governance capabilities and its ability to maintain peace and security autonomously. Meanwhile, other U.N. humanitarian agencies will continue their operations, providing critical services amidst the ongoing challenges.

The coming months will be crucial for Somalia as it navigates this transition, striving to uphold the gains made over years of painstaking international collaboration and support. The situation warrants close monitoring and engagement from both national leaders and global partners to ensure that Somalia’s path toward sovereignty does not revert to instability.

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