February 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 February 2007
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AFRICA

Somalia

Expected Council Action
The Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari is expected to brief the Council in early February. The Council is also expected to examine the request from the African Union (AU) for the UN to take over from AU peacekeepers in Somalia in six months.  However, a decision in February seems unlikely.  Discussion on lifting the arms embargo is likely and action is possible.

At the time of writing, a draft resolution welcoming progress with the AU peacekeeping mission and emphasising the importance of inclusive dialogue and the need for humanitarian aid was being canvassed informally.

Key Recent Developments
In late December our Forecast report for January highlighted the worsening situation in Somalia and the risk that resolution 1725 would lead the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) to try to take pre-emptive action, with the consequent potential for wider regional conflict. As fighting broke out around Baidoa, the headquarters of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), the Council met on 22 December. In a presidential statement, the Council urged all parties to resume negotiations and immediately implement resolution 1725.

The situation escalated into full-scale fighting. Ethiopia on 24 December confirmed that its forces were fighting in Somalia and said that it had launched a “self-defensive” operation against the UIC. Under heavy assault from Ethiopian ground and air forces (and with reported US assistance), the Islamists were quickly driven out of strongholds including Jowhar and Burhakaba.

The Council held an emergency meeting on 26 December when Special Representative of the Secretary-General François Lonseny Fall briefed on the spiralling violence. Qatar proposed a draft presidential statement but failed to get consensus. The main point of contention was a call for the withdrawal of all unauthorised foreign forces. On 27 December the Secretary-General appealed to Somalia’s neighbours to stay out of Somalia.

In a letter to the president of the Council on 28 December, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan reported on the slow progress regarding the Peacekeeping Mission of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in Somalia (IGASOM), which the Council had authorised on 6 December in resolution 1725. 

On 28 December the TFG forces backed by Ethiopia captured Mogadishu, taken by the UIC last June, and forced the Islamists to flee to the Kenyan border.

For the second time in 15 days, the Council met on 10 January. In a media statement the president said that the Council had agreed on the need for an inclusive political process involving religious leaders, clan leaders and women, for IGASOM to deploy its mission so that Ethiopia could withdraw its troops, and for humanitarian funding.

On 10 January, the US launched air strikes aimed at suspected Al-Qaida members in southern Somalia. In his first press conference as Secretary-General on 11 January, Ban Ki-moon said that he understood the necessity behind the attack but stressed the importance of diplomatic efforts. The TFG president, Abdullahi Yusuf, indicated that his government supported the US action.

Subsequently, the US sent ground personnel into Somalia to check results of its air strikes. Having missed some Al-Qaida targets, it launched a second round of strikes in the third week of January.

On 19 January, the AU Peace and Security Council authorised deployment of an 8,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) with the “clear understanding that the mission will evolve to a UN operation.” At the time of writing, only Uganda, Malawi and Nigeria had agreed to contribute troops. Possible contributors include Tanzania, Rwanda and Ghana. South Africa and Sudan have chosen not to participate.

On 22 January, Ethiopia began to withdraw its troops. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said this would take place in three phases and that he expected AU peacekeepers to be in place before Ethiopia completed its withdrawal. By the end of the January one-third of the Ethiopian troops were expected to have withdrawn.

In early January the International Contact Group on Somalia (Italy, Norway, Sweden, Tanzania, the UK and the US) met to coordinate international efforts for stability and reconciliation. The EU pledged $19 million and the US $14 million to the proposed African peacekeeping force.  The EU made funding conditional on the TFG holding talks with moderate elements of the UIC and released the funds only when Somali president, Abdullahi Yusuf, agreed on 30 January to call a broad conference of clan and religious leaders.

The Somali speaker of parliament, Hassan Sheik Adan, who was open to working with the UIC, was removed from office on 17 January. Sheik Sharif Ahmed, one of the top leaders of the UIC, turned himself over to Kenyan authorities on 24 January. The TFG has asked that Ahmed be returned to Somalia so that he can participate in talks. This was the first indication that the TFG might be willing to engage with moderate Islamists.

In early January, Usama bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri called on Islamists in Somalia to rise up in an Iraq-style insurgency against Ethiopian troops in the country. In recent days the security situation has become increasingly volatile with attacks being carried out on TFG and Ethiopian soldiers and police stations in Mogadishu as well as key buildings like the airport and presidential palace. Islamist insurgents posted a video on the UIC website warning AU peacekeepers that they will be killed when they come to Somalia.

A UN humanitarian mission arrived in Mogadishu on 24 January to discuss aid issues with the TFG.

Options
Options for the Council include:

  • adopting a wait-and-see approach;
  • welcoming and indicating support for AMISOM as well as encouraging states to provide logistic and financial assistance;
  • insisting on a balanced and inclusive approach by the TFG in dealing with the political factions and clans;
  • initiating an international process and creating a framework for peace and reconciliation;
  • indicating willingness to deploy peacekeepers, perhaps subject to positive developments regarding a peace process;
  • giving stronger support to the TFG to buttress its legitimacy;
  • partially lifting the arms embargo to fully exempt the TFG; and
  • focussing targeted sanctions against spoilers.

The next Secretary-General’s quarterly report is due in late February. A possible option would be for the Council to ask the Secretary-General to become more actively involved in establishing a peace process.

If the Council wants to show support for the AU’s decision to send a peacekeeping force but make clear that a UN force cannot be authorised until certain conditions are met, an option is for the president of the Council to outline the Council’s views at a press stakeout.

Key Issues
The key issue is the volatility of the situation which stems from several sources:

  • rival clans jockeying for power;
  • the call for an Iraq-style Islamic insurgency; and
  • the legitimacy of the TFG (especially given Ethiopia’s role).

The Council will be concerned that the situation is ripe for an Islamist insurgency either alone or in parallel with a resumption of clan warfare. The TFG’s weak institutions and lack of popular support seem likely to make it difficult to maintain security. The Council will therefore see the issue of building a credible, inclusive government as crucial to long-term stability.

A related issue is the large number of weapons in circulation in Somalia. The existence of weapons like shoulder-fired missiles was documented by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia last November. These could increase the risk of clan warfare and may encourage the Council to want to maintain (and enforce more vigorously) the arms embargo against all parties except the TFG.

A particular issue for the Council will be the security risks for the AU and the UN and the humanitarian community if the situation deteriorates into an Iraqi style insurgency. All remember the fate of the UN in Baghdad. In such circumstances security issues and force protection requirements would be huge.

A related question for the Council is whether and when to decide on a UN operation to succeed AMISOM. An issue will be how to avoid acting hastily given the uncertain security situation. However, if the UN is to take over in mid-2007, it will take time to pull together a mission.  The key question will be whether it faces a peacekeeping or peace enforcement role. The UN is well configured for the former but, as the UN Operation in Somalia (UNISOM) in the 1990s demonstrated, it is not well equipped for the latter.

Finally, there is the issue of the impact on the region. Kenya has had an influx of refugees and has tightened security around its borders.

Council Dynamics
In the short term, there appears to be consensus in the Council on the need to take advantage of the window of opportunity created by the reinstatement of the TFG to Mogadishu. Council efforts to buttress TFG legitimacy are likely to be supported. But the need for an all-inclusive political dialogue to create long-term stability and the concern that this process should include moderate Muslims may be more divisive. Given its strong views on extremist elements in the UIC, the US may be cautious about who is included.

Council members are also generally supportive of the AU decision to create AMISOM. The US has said the peacekeeping force should be led by Africans and likened this situation to Burundi (where the AU mission led by South Africa was instrumental in bringing initial peace and stability and acted as a transition to a wider UN presence.) It is unclear at this point what Council members feel about a renewed UN peacekeeping force in Somalia. However, important elements include the fact that Ghana, an elected Council member, as a possible troop contributor to AMISOM and in its capacity as AU president is likely to press for an early transfer to UN control and funding.  Italy with its deep historical roots in the region is showing signs of willingness to be actively involved in this issue.  (It offered on 29 January to host a peace conference for Somalia.)

As in the past, differences of opinion are expected to continue over the arms embargo. The US may propose that the Council lift the embargo completely as far as the TFG is concerned so as to equip the police force and national army.  Based on past positions China and the UK are likely to be supportive of this while Russia may still be more cautious.

Underlying Problems
Drought and crop failure early last year, coupled with serious flooding at the end of the year, have created a serious humanitarian situation, particularly in the Lower Juba region. Until the security situation is stabilised and restrictions on border crossings into Kenya are lifted, the humanitarian crisis is likely to escalate.

UN Documents

 Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1725 (6 December 2006) authorised IGASOM.
  • S/RES/733 (23 January 1992) imposed the arms embargo.
 Selected Presidential Statements
  • S/PRST/2006/59 (22 December 2006) expressed the Council’s concern over intensified fighting and called upon all parties to draw back from conflict.
  • S/PRST/2006/31 (13 July 2006) expressed willingness to consider exemptions to the arms embargo and support for the Transitional Federal Institutions.
 Latest Secretary-General’s Report
  •  S/2006/838 (23 October 2006) was the last quarterly report.
 Selected Letters from the Secretary-General
  • S/2006/1042 (28 December 2006) was the letter containing the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of IGASOM.
  • S/2006/986 (15 December 2006) was the letter on the re-establishment of the Monitoring Group on Somalia.
 Latest Monitoring Group’s Report

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General
 François Lonseny Fall (Guinea)
 Chairman of the Sanctions Committee
 Dumisani S. Kumalo (South Africa)

For a full historical background and more details please see our January and September 2006 and January 2007 Forecasts.

Useful Additional Sources

Full forecast