Giant step for Somalia with UN Security Council seat

Representatives of Somalia react after being elected as a new non-permanent member for the United Nations' Security Council after a vote by the General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York, New York, US - 6 June 2024
Somali officials celebrated in the General Assembly after the vote [EPA]

Somalia has won a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council - hailed as a significant step for the war-torn nation.

It will be the first time the country, which descended into civil war more than 30 years ago, has held the position since the 1970s.

The top table at the UN determines how the organisation should respond to conflicts around the world.

Analysts say Somalia’s battle to bring an end to its turmoil and its fight against Islamist militants will help inform the UN’s decisions.

There are 10 rotating non-permanent members on the council, along with the five permanent members - the US, the UK, France, China and Russia.

To win a seat, which can carry influence in world affairs, a country needs to secure the support of at least two thirds of the General Assembly delegations that are voting.

Somalia was elected along with Denmark, Greece, Pakistan and Panama to serve for two years from January next year.

It bagged the seat allocated to the East Africa region unopposed and went on to win 179 votes in a secret ballot in the 193-member General Assembly.

Following the vote, Somalia's Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmed Fiqi, who led a delegation of Somali officials to New York, said his country would now take up “its position on the global stage".

"We stand ready to play a vital role in promoting peace and security in the world," he said.

The ousting of Mohamed Siad Barre as Somalia’s president in 1991 sparked a decades-long civil war between rival clan warlords.

Over the years, the UN and African Union (AU) have played key roles in helping to re-establish a central authority.

Somalia has also been battling the Islamist militant group al-Shabab, which still controls large parts of the country.

The al-Qaeda-allied fighters want to topple the central government and establish their own rule based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

In recent months, the government has intensified its fight against the group as foreign troops withdraw and pass the baton on to the Somali army.

"Somalia has come a long way over the past three decades on its path to peace, prosperity and security"", Source: James Swan, Source description: UN chief's acting special representative for Somalia, Image: James Swan
"Somalia has come a long way over the past three decades on its path to peace, prosperity and security"", Source: James Swan, Source description: UN chief's acting special representative for Somalia, Image: James Swan

James Swan, the UN secretary general’s acting special representative for Somalia, said the country's experiences placed it in a unique position to contribute to the Security Council's deliberations on international peace and security.

“Somalia has come a long way over the past three decades on its path to peace, prosperity and security," Mr Swan said.

Security expert Samira Gaid told UK-based Warpod podcast that Somalia was "no longer the poster child for problems in the Horn of Africa".

The UN Security Council has significant responsibilities and can authorise peacekeeping operations and impose international sanctions.

Last December, it lifted a longstanding arms embargo on Somalia.

Non-permanent members of the council are allocated by region, but unlike the five permanent members, they do not have the power of veto.

There are currently three non-permanent African states on the council - Algeria, Sierra Leone and Mozambique, which Somalia will be replacing.

The AU has been pushing for the continent to have two permanent representatives on the council and an additional two seats as non-permanent representatives.

More Somalia stories from the BBC:

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