Thank you, Special Representative Keating, for your briefing and for your dedicated work over the last three years advancing our shared goals in Somalia. I also thank Ambassador Madeira for your remarks. And I want to say a special thank you to Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka for being here today and for her work in improving the lives of women.
Somalia finds itself in a defining moment. For the first time in over two decades, Somalia has the real opportunity to move toward protecting itself and securing its own country. This opportunity has not been without a price. The progress towards peace and stability we have seen over the last 10 years is due in large part to the sacrifices of troop contributing countries of the African Union, as well as the contributions made by the international partners and donors. The United States honors and appreciates the sacrifices and investments from these countries. We especially pay tribute to the soldiers and family members of those killed and injured while operating in Somalia.
For Somalia to capitalize on the opportunity of this moment, there must be progress in strengthening AMISOM’s performance and accountability. There must be progress in meaningful participation of women. We call on all partners to make progress in enforcing a zero-tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse. And, most importantly, progress towards transitioning security responsibility to the Somali security forces. This can only happen through a smart, deliberate drawdown of AMISOM forces to reflect the conditions on the ground.
Progress on the political track is equally important in the coming months. Like the Secretary-General, the United States is concerned about tensions between Federal Member States and the Federal Government of Somalia. This tension threatens Somalia’s hard-won progress. What is needed instead is a spirit of reconciliation. We call upon the federal and state leadership to engage constructively and work to deescalate these tensions. Furthermore, we need to see progress on the constitutional review process to lay the groundwork for universal elections in 2020 and 2021.
Something Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said during her recent visit to Somalia should guide us. She said that a chance to improve a nation’s constitution is extremely rare, a once-in-a-generation opportunity. This is, in fact, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve and lift up the lives of all Somalis. The country’s leadership and all parties in the region must seize this opportunity. And it is up to the Security Council to support this progress, with AMISOM, UNSOM, and with the Government of Somalia.
A secure, inclusive, and corruption-free Somalia is possible. Political and security challenges will occur – that’s a given. But if we stay unified in our commitment toward progress, I sincerely believe we will ultimately see a prosperous Somalia where all citizens can thrive in stability and freedom.