January 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 22 December 2006
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Expected Council Action
The Secretary-General’s report under resolution 1725 is due on 6 January. It will be the first on a major crisis situation by the new Secretary-General and it will be an interesting test of his approach, particularly since the Council in December rejected the advice of his predecessor and his special representative and went ahead with approval for an Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) military mission in Somalia (IGASOM) in resolution 1725.

It seems that prospects for IGASOM’s deployment have not improved since the adoption of resolution 1725. The security situation has continued to deteriorate, with heavy fighting now reported around Baidoa.

Observers seem divided, with many believing that, far from helping, resolution 1725 actually contributed to the intensification of the crisis. Others seem to believe that it may have helped stimulate regional players and EU mediators to intensify efforts towards peace negotiations.

At time of writing the intensification of fighting perhaps indicates that options for negotiation were disappearing. Some will certainly have in mind options for boosting the Khartoum peace process. Other Council members may want to revert to the Council’s intention to consider “ways to strengthen [the arms embargo’s] effectiveness, including through targeted measures” and “measures against those that seek to prevent or block a peaceful dialogue process, overthrow the Transitional Federal Institutions by force, or take action that further threatens regional stability”.

Having condemned on 22 December the outbreak of fighting around Baidoa and urged a resumption of negotiations it is possible that the Council will adopt a wait-and-see posture in the immediate future (S/PRST/2006/59).

Key Recent Developments
Resolution 1725 was adopted by consensus despite widespread hesitation in the Council and recommendations to the contrary from the Secretary-General and the special representative, who cautioned against IGASOM’s potentially destabilising impact. European members sought and achieved some amendments to the US draft to emphasise balance, restrict the mission’s mandate, exclude participation by neighbouring states and encourage political dialogue.

The Union of Islamic courts (UIC) denounced the resolution as contributing to further instability. It said it would view any IGASOM deployment as a hostile foreign intervention, and denounced Ethiopian military support for the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

Ethiopia and the US renewed their public criticism of the UIC for expansionism and harbouring extremists, including Al-Qaida operatives.

One welcome sign was the launch of various initiatives by regional neighbours and the EU to persuade the TFG and UIC to pull back from hostilities and return to negotiations without preconditions. While those efforts seemed to produce some initial success, with the commencement of open hostilities it is unclear whether the UIC and the TFG will resume talks.

An interesting development had been the signals emerging from the UIC, particularly during talks with IGAD and in letters sent to Council members in December, which may suggest some options for the future. The UIC expressed:

  • commitment to dialogue with the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs);
  • respect for the territorial integrity of neighbouring countries and the implementation of agreements reached in the context of the Khartoum peace talks;
  • interest in the deployment of international monitors to verify the presence of Ethiopian troops, whose withdrawal is a UIC precondition for talks with the TFG and with Ethiopia; and
  • willingness to consider the deployment of an international mechanism to monitor the implementation of agreements reached with the TFG.

Some observers note nonetheless that the UIC is sending mixed signals, in particular with an increase in rhetoric questioning the legitimacy of the TFIs.

Internal UIC dynamics seem to be changing, perhaps in favour of more radical factions to the detriment of the more moderate wing of Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. Some observers suggest the adoption of resolution 1725 may have contributed to this.

Similarly, within the TFIs, the divide between the TFG and some members of the parliament-particularly the group led by Speaker Sharif Hassan Aden-is widening. Aden has reportedly recently engaged in further talks with UIC’s Sheikh Sharif Ahmed under Yemeni auspices despite criticism from the Somali transitional government.

Given the new circumstances on the ground, IGASOM’s deployment now seems highly unlikely. There are reports that Sudan and Uganda are reluctant to contribute troops in the present security environment. No European donors have stepped up to fund the mission. The focus appears to have shifted to securing troop contributions from the wider AU membership, such as Nigeria, but it seems less likely that arrangements for funding and troops will materialise in the short run.

Options for the Council include:

  • adopting a wait and see posture;
  • condemning the current hostilities and all external interference;
  • edging towards greater support for dialogue (which may mean coming closer to language which accepts greater parity between both sides and perhaps the logic of an eventual sharing of power);
  • signalling a willingness to support the deployment of international monitors if fighting subsides and dialogue resumes (perhaps as a way of addressing Ethiopia’s concerns about UIC expansionism and opening the way to international monitoring of future agreements reached through the Khartoum process); and
  • strengthening the arms embargo, perhaps through targeted sanctions.

Key Issues
The key issue is whether security can be achieved in Somalia and the region through peace negotiations between the UIC and the TFG.

For some members, the answer to that seems to be no-and therefore the issue is how to contain the UIC and improve the TFG position. This would suggest more decisive support for a military option.

For others, the major issue is how to move towards a balanced approach and encourage both the TFG and the UIC to honour commitments on mutual recognition and power-sharing.

Another crucial issue is how best to contain external involvement, particularly the prospects of regional escalation including renewed war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, while also addressing Ethiopia’s security concerns.

Council Dynamics
The negotiations on resolution 1725 highlighted the complex dynamics in the Council over Somalia.

The US and China (perhaps for somewhat different reasons) appear to have decided to lean decisively towards military support for the TFG and containment of the UIC.

African members seem to have supported the military option reluctantly, but largely because of a much earlier AU commitment to IGASOM (at a time when it was assumed it would be operating in a permissive environment).

Others, particularly European members, have supported a more balanced approach that recognised the UIC as a practical reality and placed more emphasis on dialogue rather than the military option. Those members appear ready to explore strengthening the arms embargo.

There is wide but qualified sympathy for Ethiopia’s concerns. This translates into reluctance to criticise its military support of the TFG, especially in the absence of some other viable policy to respond to the aggressive moves by the UIC.

It seems that all members are conscious of the need to avoid the worst-case scenarios of regional war or a dangerously protracted military standoff.

Concerns about the potentially destabilising impacts of a military option have grown in recent weeks. It is possible, especially as the dynamics in the Council change with the entry of five new members in January, that there will be voices seeking a more subtle shift towards addressing peace talks and the regional dimension.

There also seems to be a growing concern about the dangers of actions that:

  • only result in further radicalisation of the UIC and marginalisation of the moderates in Mogadishu; or
  • give the UIC incentives to further consolidate its territorial grip.

There continue to be differences in the Council over the UIC’s intentions and its role in an acceptable future scenario for Somalia-especially one that might involve UIC-TFG power-sharing. For some, the UIC is a radical, expansionist and destabilising force that must be contained. Others see a need to test the credibility of the UIC’s pledges about recognising the TFG and entering into dialogue, especially if that helps to reinforce the position of UIC moderates.

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UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1725 (6 December 2006) authorised IGASOM.
  • S/RES/1724 (29 November 2006) renewed the Monitoring Group’s mandate.
  • S/RES/733 (23 January 1992) imposed an arms embargo.
Latest Secretary-General’s Report
Latest Monitoring Group’s Report

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)

For a full historical background, please see our January, September and December 2006 Monthly Forecasts.

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