Expected Council Action
The Somalia Sanctions Committee is due to receive the final report of the Monitoring Group on the arms embargo, but no new action on sanctions is expected. The current mandate of the Monitoring Group expires 12 May. The Council is expected to renew the Group’s mandate for another six months.
The most likely option is that the Council will adopt a resolution renewing the Monitoring Group’s mandate and address the question of improving the sanctions regime at a later stage. Other options include:
expanding the sanctions regime to include economic activities that generate revenue used to commit violations of the arms embargo;
deciding on measures against individual violators on the draft list provided by the Monitoring Group;
engaging actively with neighbouring countries with a view to finding a balance between security concerns and respect for the arms embargo; and
accommodating the request by the AU and Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) for a waiver of the arms embargo for a proposed AU-IGAD peace support mission.
The arms embargo is not effective, and several neighbouring countries have been identified as being among the violators of the embargo. Yemen, citing regional security concerns and the Somali Transitional Federal Government’s (TFG) legitimate need for military equipment, has officially defended its policy of assisting the TFG with weapons and uniforms. An issue for the Council is therefore how to confront explicit violations of the embargo.
The Monitoring Group has previously recommended expanding the embargo to include exports of Somali charcoal and fish to curb the financing of arms purchases. This issue is still before the Council. However, sustained drought and increased need for humanitarian assistance makes the civilian population in Somalia extremely vulnerable to any potential adverse humanitarian consequences of a trade embargo.
Since 2003, the Panel of Experts (subsequently the Monitoring Group) has prepared a draft list of individual embargo violators. It is likely that many current Somali leaders are on the draft list. The draft list is confidential, and the Council has so far decided not to adopt targeted sanctions by formally listing any individuals, but this issue is still on the table.
A further issue which has a high profile is the request from the AU and IGAD to provide an exemption from the arms embargo to facilitate the deployment of the proposed joint AU-IGAD peace support mission. The Council has stated that a key condition for granting an exemption is that the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFI) first develop a national security and stabilisation plan, and that a mission plan is worked out with the broad consensus of the TFI. An issue for the Council will be to evaluate whether these conditions have been satisfactorily met once IGAD and AU present a mission plan.
Another issue may be the increase in piracy off the coast of Somalia.
There seems to be no controversy in the Council over a simple renewal of the Monitoring Group’s mandate. Not renewing its mandate might send undesirable signals at a time when sanctions are already being violated to an increasing extent. However, with the recent rise in hostilities involving Islamist militia groups, some Council members are furthermore worried that Somalia might become a safe haven for terrorists. Adding to this, the Secretary-General warned in his last report that some militants are suspected of having links with Al-Qaeda operatives and of having set up training camps in southeastern Somalia.
It is unclear whether, in light of this situation, proposals may be made to step up the sanctions. Russia and China, which are sceptical about sanctions in general, are likely to resist. Other members less negative toward sanctions also seem reluctant to step up the sanctions against Somalia due to enforcement problems. Porous borders and the 3,200-kilometre Somali coastline already pose tremendous challenges for the arms embargo, let alone potential additional measures.
Many Council members also seem cautions about prematurely granting a partial exemption from the embargo to accommodate the proposed AU-IGAD peace mission. Whereas IGAD and neighbouring countries seem more inclined to favour a partial lifting of the embargo to support the TFG and Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, the Council has repeatedly insisted that a mission plan be coordinated with the broad consensus of the different parties in the TFI and be consistent with a national security and stabilisation plan.
China in recent years has been the lead nation on the Somalia issue in the Council. Qatar has recently taken over from the Philippines as the chair of the Somalia Sanctions Committee and will be drafting the resolution concerning the renewal of the Monitoring Group’s mandate. Troubled by neighbouring states’ continued embargo violations, Qatar has signalled an interest in strengthening the language in the resolution by calling for increased cooperation from neighbouring states.
The Council has not discussed Somalia since its presidential statement on March 15, despite the several days of heavy fighting and increased hostilities in March. With a heavy work load and many urgent matters before the Council, it is unclear whether the Council is likely to spend much energy on Somalia in the coming month.
President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and the Parliamentary Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden agreed in the Aden Declaration of January 2005 to hold a parliamentary session inside the country. The Somali Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP) met on 26 February inside Somalia, in the town of Baidoa, for the first time since 2004 when the parliament and president were sworn-in in Kenya. Preliminary reports suggest that the TFP is progressing in its work with the national security and stabilisation plan.
Representatives from AU and IGAD have recently met with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, to discuss the conditions for a waiver of the arms embargo. It nevertheless is still uncertain when a new AU-IGAD proposal will be presented to the Council.
Recent fighting in Mogadishu, characterised by some reports as the worst fighting since the early 1990s, has threatened to undermine the political progress of the TFI. The fighting has pitted Islamic court militias against the recently formed Forces of the Alliance for Peace and Fight Against International Terrorism. Reportedly, more than 100 people were killed and 300 wounded in March, and thousands were displaced. According to media reports, many of the Somalis killed were among those advocating a foreign peacekeeping force in Somalia-a proposal that has been strongly rejected by the Islamists.
Somalia is facing growing danger of a humanitarian disaster. The UN’s acting humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Christian Balslev-Olesen, has warned that the country could experience a devastating famine like the one that claimed 300,000 lives in the early 1990s unless emergency relief arrives soon. He warned that the worst drought in a decade has left 2.1 million people in urgent need of aid, and that the political process of rebuilding Somalia will be immediately undermined if there is a humanitarian disaster.
The delivery of humanitarian aid has been hampered by increased hostilities. In March, a local militiaman was killed and several wounded after negotiations failed to obtain safe passage for a food convey contracted by the World Food Programme (WFP). On another occasion, a WFP charter ship managed to escape during an armed attack by pirates after unloading food at Somali port of Merka. In March, a UNICEF staff member was abducted in southern Somalia, but was released thirty hours later.
The political situation in Somalia has lately been characterised by a stalemate between Jawhar-based President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi on one side, and Mogadishu-based Parliamentary Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden and some ministers on the other. Issues include the seat of the government, security and the deployment of an AU-IGAD peace support mission. Several Mogadishu-based ministers and militia groups have previously objected to an international peacekeeping mission, particularly if comprised by soldiers from neighbouring states
For historical background and a more complete list of UN documents please consult our January 2006 Monthly Forecast.
|Selected Security Council Resolutions|
|Selected Presidential Statements|
|Selected Secretary-General’s Report|
|Selected reports of the Panel of Experts/Monitoring Group|
|Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia|
|François Lonseny Fall (Guinea)|
|Chairman of the Somalia Sanctions Committee|
|Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser (Qatar)|