Expected Council Action
No Council decisions on Somalia are scheduled this month. However, given the very unstable situation on the ground, Somalia is likely to feature in some way on the Council programme of work. The talks between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) have collapsed. 18 TFG ministers have resigned and one has been assasinated. UIC troops made a provocative foray towards the seat of the TFG, Baidoa. Ethiopian troops have entered the country to support the TFG, leading to a declaration of “holy war” by the UIC and there are reports of Eritrean arms shipments to the UIC. Council action to head off a proxy war between Ethipia and Eritrea in Somalia seems likely.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union may produce a detailed mission plan for the proposed peacekeeping mission. However, this now seems much less likely. However, if it does emerge the Council is likely to meet to consider the plan.
The Somalia Sanctions Committee is expected to receive a midterm briefing from the Monitoring Group on the arms embargo at the end of August, and the chairman of this Committee is due to brief the Council by 3 September.
The main issue for the Council is the increasingly fragile military and political situation with Ethiopian forces apparently in Somalia, the Union of Islamic Courts and the Transitional Federal Government now appear to be heading towards conflict, and the situation has taken on a clearly international character. Eritrea is suspected of arming the Islamists and therefore also risks becoming embroiled in the issue, perhaps exacerbating an already tense situation between Ethiopia and Eritrea on Ethiopia’s northern border.
Another issue for the Council is whether IGAD and the AU will deliver a peacekeeping mission plan soon. In a presidential statement issued on 13 July the Council put its support behind the TFG and Transitional Federal Parliament, and indicated a willingness to consider the AU Summit request for an exemption from the arms embargo in order to pave the way for an AU-IGAD Peace Support Mission (PSM).
Another immediate issue for the Council in any dealings with the UIC is the position of Hassan Dahir Aweys, the UIC leader. Aweys is on the targeted sanctions list established by resolution 1267 of 15 October 1999. The US has already made it clear that it will not deal with Aweys directly given his alleged links with terrorist organisations. Individuals on this list are subject to asset freezes and travel bans.
In July, the Council took a small step away from its previous policy of essentially limiting its involvement to aspects of the sanctions regime. However, the Somalia situation has deteriorated dramatically. There seem to be essentially three options.
Opt decisively to support the Transitional Federal Government, and reject the Union of Islamic Courts, including possibly going as far as acknowledging (or legitimising) Ethiopian military support for the TFG and leaning even more towards a Peace Support Mission. But this would pit the Council irrevocably against the UIC and brings back memories of the failed Council policy in 1993 when it took an absolutist position against Somali leader Mohamed Farah Aideed.
Continue support for the TFG, but also continue to keep open the possibility of negotiated peace between the TFG and the UIC. (This could mean remaining silent in the short term on the Ethiopian dimension.)
Lean slightly more in favour of a balanced approach; keeping open the possibility of negotiations between the TFG and UIC, but also signalling disapproval of external interference either by criticising Ethiopia directly or indirectly and perhaps also Eritrea, which was named in the Somalia Monitoring Group’s report of 4 May 2006 and whose support has been publicly acknowledged by the Islamists.
In addiiton the Councilmay want to encourage the diplomatic mediation currently being pursued by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, François Lonseny Fall.
A further option is to bring back onto the table certain targeted sanctions measures, not only to regulate the flow of arms into Somalia, but influence their behaviour in negotiations.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Increasing concern about the growing influence of Islamists in Somali politics led in June and July to a shift in the attitudes of some Council members. There is greater support for the need to provide the UN-backed TFG with the tools to strengthen its institutions and build its security sector while at the same time encouraging dialogue. However, recent events may mean that consensus is now uncertain.
The Council is not united on how fast it should move if a detailed peacekeeping mission plan appears. Members like China, Tanzania, the Republic of Congo and Qatar feel that once the detailed mission plan is presented the Council should automatically approve a Peace Support Mission and ease the arms embargo. A middle group is made up of members like the UK and Russia, which now feel that recent developments suggest that the Council should focus first on helping Somalia develop its security sector and national institutions. A third group of members is wary of granting a quick exemption from the arms embargo, and would need to be persuaded that the mission plan is a sound one and that there is a sustainable prospect of peace for the peacekeepers to keep.
By early July the Union of Islamic Courts had seized control of Mogadishu and Jowhar from the coalition of warlords known as the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism. The UIC now controls Mogadishu and the area south of the capital. It has set up nine new courts in these areas and two courts in the Bay and Bako area which is controlled by the Transitional Federal Government. At the time of writing there were reports that Ethiopian forces had entered the country to support the TFG (possibly in response to UIC troops moving towards the seat of the TFG, Baidoa). In response, the UIC issued strong statements declaring a holy war against Ethiopia and calling on Somalis to prepare for sustained combat. On 27 July, 18 ministers resigned and lawmakers started proceedings to oust the prime minister, Ali Mohamed Gedi. The ministers were opposed to having Ethiopian troops in the country and felt that the government was not interested in peace or reconciliation.
The first round of talks on 22 June between the TFG and UIC in Khartoum, facilitated by the Arab League, were promising, with both sides agreeing to a ceasefire, to recognise each other and engage in dialogue on security and political issues. However, the TFG boycotted the second round scheduled for 15 July accusing the UIC of breaking the agreed ceasefire. After being pressured by the Transitional Federal Parliament and the international community, the TFG agreed to attend the next round of talks scheduled for 22 July in Sudan. But the talks were boycotted by the Islamists after the Ethiopian troops crossed the border. At the time of writing, new talks have been proposed for 1 and 2 August. The TFG has said it will participate but the Islamists are not willing to attend the peace talks until the Ethiopian troops have left Somalia.
In July there was a flurry of diplomatic activity focused on Somalia. A joint fact-finding mission made up of the EU, the AU, IGAD and the Arab League visited Somalia from 5 to 9 July to assess the possibility of deploying a peacekeeping force to the country. The team met with leaders from the transitional government as well as the UIC. A UN team led by the UN chief security advisor for Somalia, Joe Gordon, also visited Somalia in early July to assess conditions for a possible increase in humanitarian operations. In late July, Special Representative of the Secretary-General François Lonseny Fall went to Somalia to mediate between the two parties.
At its second meeting on 17 July in Brussels, the International Contact Group for Somalia called on the TFG and UIC to resume talks and to make them more inclusive by including other stakeholders. The Group was set up at the urging of the US and now includes Italy, Norway, Sweden, Tanzania, the UK and the US as well as the AU, the EU, the Arab League and IGAD.
The underlying tensions between the weak Transitional Federal Government and the increasingly stronger Union of Islamic Courts are likely to lead to a fragile security situation making a sustainable political process difficult. Some members fear that this instability may result in a fight for supremacy that could plunge Somalia into the type of political chaos that could be a breeding ground for terrorists. UN sources on the ground have noted an increase in the flow of arms from Ethiopia and Eritrea, which they read as a sign of impending armed conflict.
|Selected Security Council Resolutions|
|Selected Presidential Statements|
|Selected Secretary-General’s Report|
|Latest Report of the 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)|