The United Nations and the African Union urged Somalia on Thursday to hold already delayed national elections this October despite attempted intimidation by Islamist militants.
“Preparations for election security are key due to the continuing threat posed by al-Shabab,” U.N. Special Representative for Somalia James Swan told a meeting of the Security Council. “Al-Shabab continues terrorist attacks and insurgent operations, including by encircling communities; especially so in South-West State.”
African Union Special Representative Francisco Madeira told the council that “our collective focus” must be on preventing the militants from disrupting the electoral system. He said the group is using “sinister tactics both in Mogadishu and beyond” to derail the process.
“In an attempt to disrupt the elections, we have recorded the group carrying out kidnappings, public executions and assassinations,” Madeira told the council. “I am also concerned over reports about al-Shabab using intimidation tactics against local elders, urging them from refraining from participating in the election.”
The United Nations political mission in the country has recorded the deaths of 321 civilians this year, most attributed to al-Shabab.
Parliamentary and presidential elections have been repeatedly delayed since February over disagreements between the government and opposition.
In late April, clashes between forces loyal to President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo —who sought to remain in office beyond his term — and the opposition, threatened to thrust the country into another cycle of civil war. An agreement was reached on May 27 and the country began moving toward elections.