December 2006 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 November 2006
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Expected Council Action
The Council seems likely to continue to be divided about the merits of a regional military mission (IGASOM) of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) being deployed in Somalia to support the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

At press time it seemed possible that a US draft resolution giving IGASOM a mandate to support the TFG could be circulated soon. It is unclear whether agreement within the Council can be reached on such a proposal. There seems to be reluctance based on concerns that an IGASOM presence may further destabilise the region and lock the Council into supporting one side of the conflict.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, is likely to brief the Council in December.

The Somalia Sanctions Committee is likely to hold an unprecedented exchange of views in late November or early December between the Monitoring Group and states mentioned as having violated the arms embargo in the Group’s latest report. Council action in response to reportedly widespread embargo violations seems unlikely in December.

Key Recent Developments
The tense military stand-off involving the TFG and the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) continues, with fears of an impending regional war engulfing Ethiopia and Eritrea as well as extremist Islamic elements. Insecurity and prolonged drought followed by floods have resulted in 160,000 Somali refugees in northern Kenya alone and 400,000 internally displaced in Somalia.

The UIC has indicated that it would view any IGASOM deployment as a hostile foreign intervention. It has also denounced Ethiopian support for the TFG. Ethiopia accuses the UIC of expansionism and harbouring extremists.

The UIC appears to be consolidating its grip in central and southern Somalia, and is possibly advancing in Puntland and Somaliland. The Transitional Federal Institutions (or TFIs, which comprise the TFG and parliament) are plagued by internal divisions and confined to Baidoa, which is steadily being encircled by UIC forces.

Tensions recently increased after reported calls by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, for support from domestic leaders for his plans to fight the UIC.  UIC leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed reportedly equated Zenawi’s comments to a “declaration of war”, and some TFI members declared support for the UIC. Addis Ababa now acknowledges having deployed a few hundred military trainers to assist the TFG. Independent observers estimate that Ethiopia has in fact sent thousands of troops and amassed thousands more on its side of the border. At the time of writing, there were fresh reports of increased military movement among UIC, TFG and Ethiopian contingents near Baidoa.

During briefings to the Council in November, Lonseny Fall and the Sanctions Monitoring Group warned the Council against authorising a military deployment by IGAD, given its strong destabilising potential. The Secretary-General has said publicly that any IGASOM role should only be in support of an agreed political process and enjoy the consent of all major parties. He has also strongly urged regional players not to interfere.

Lonseny Fall underscored that an IGASOM deployment may in fact step up the TFG’s fragmentation and collapse. He also warned that:

  • IGASOM’s mission plan does not meet Council demands, particularly a ceasefire;
  • there was no consensus among key players including IGAD itself; and
  • the mandate, composition, funding and logistics remained vague.

The plan seems to envision deploying thousands of troops from regional countries across Somalia costing US$335 million for the first year, and seems predicated on the belief that international donors will fund it. Interestingly, IGASOM military planners also seem to assume that the mission will be deployed in a consensual environment.

Fall urged the Council to focus instead on reinvigorating a political process, engaging the UIC and addressing regional concerns.

The latest Monitoring Group report says illegal outside support is “life-sustaining” for the TFG and UIC. It said that Djibouti, Eritrea, Libya, Egypt, Hezbollah, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria provided arms, funds and/or training for the UIC, and notes the presence of Eritrean military, Ethiopian rebels and foreign volunteers. Ethiopia, Uganda and Yemen allegedly provided arms, funding and/or troops to the TFG and warlords. (At press time, Ethiopia, Uganda, Eritrea, Libya and Egypt had denied the violations.)

The Group recommended sea, air and land surveillance with interdiction to enforce the embargo, including a UN observer mission, and assets freezes. It also recommended a high-level, region-wide diplomatic effort to increase dialogue with a view to a solution to the conflict.

UIC-TFG talks scheduled for 30 October were cancelled due to disagreement on co-mediation by Kenya and the Arab League and by UIC demands that Ethiopia withdraw from Somalia. Talks in mid-December are possible, but there is little optimism about progress.

Options include:

  • authorising an IGASOM deployment (comprising non-neighbouring states) and perhaps only in Baidoa, and/or limited exemptions from the arms embargo for IGASOM and training of TFG forces;
  • deciding that IGASOM’s mandate should be restricted to monitoring compliance with the August ceasefire;
  • deciding that IGASOM’s deployment should be put on hold pending agreement on a sustainable peace process, consent from all key players and guarantees that neighbours who have taken sides (or are perceived as partial) will not be involved;
  • follow-up on the recommendations of the Monitoring Group regarding sanctions violations (this would leave the TFG very exposed in the short term, and many believe it is technically impossible to enforce sanctions in Somalia); and
  • encouraging a region-wide conference in conjunction with a UIC-TFG peace process.

Key Issues
Key issues include:

  • whether, by authorising IGASOM’s deployment, the Council would in effect be taking sides and committing to a strategic policy of support for militarily containing the UIC’s expansion and protecting the TFG (a consequential issue is IGASOM’s mandate, composition and funding);
  • whether, as an alternative, to seek to reinvigorate peace negotiations, and, instead of increasing the risks associated with an IGASOM military deployment, find some alternatives for ensuring that the TFG is able to survive and remain a viable negotiating partner;
  • whether to focus on the regional dimensions; and
  • whether to address violations of the embargo.

Time is also a key issue given the fast pace of developments. 

A related issue is whether a coherent, unified Council view on the acceptable future scenario for Somalia can be achieved-especially whether this includes UIC/TFG power-sharing. The issue is key since some believe that the UIC is a potential danger, as it is reportedly affiliated with terrorist networks. Others believe that the UIC is now an undeniable reality in Somalia and that any solution to the widespread security concerns involves some form of accommodation with the UIC. And associated with this issue is the fear that a Council position which is perceived to be anti-UIC could exacerbate ideological or religious overtones in dynamics on the ground.

Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council appears divided on how best to respond.

There seems to be support for the US approach from China. Russia, who initially was opposed, may now also be in agreement. The other two permanent members, France and the UK, and the other EU Council members are among those who have been concerned about the US approach. There seems to be an emerging French leadership in finding alternatives to the US approach.

Strong pressure from the US and China for quick agreement on IGASOM is possible given a concern with containing the UIC and protecting the TFIs. But the uncertainties (not least the costs and who will contribute to them, and the lack of clarity about troop contributors) and the risks associated with a deployment plan designed for a consensual environment being implemented in the face of clear opposition from the UIC leave some doubt as to the expected outcome.

UN Documents

 Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/733 (23 January 1992) imposed an arms embargo.
 Selected Presidential Statements
  • S/PRST/2006/31 (13 July 2006) expressed support for the TFG and TFP and willingness to consider the AU’s request for an exemption to the arms embargo to allow for a PSM on the basis of a detailed mission plan.
 Latest Secretary-General’s Report
 Latest Report of the Monitoring Group

Other Relevant Facts

 Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia
 François Lonseny Fall (Guinea)
 Chairman of the Somalia Sanctions Committee
 Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser (Qatar)

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