In late June the Secretary-General is expected to report on progress with Somalia’s national reconciliation process, including a broad ceasefire. The reconciliation congress is currently scheduled for mid-June, but it is unclear whether it will be held. The report will also discuss contingency planning for a possible UN peacekeeping mission in Somalia, but Council action on that seems unlikely at this stage.
The Council mission to Africa, also scheduled for June, is likely to include visits to Accra (in light of Ghana’s current AU chairmanship) as well as the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. Some discussions on Somalia seem likely.
Key Recent Developments
The situation in Somalia remains extremely volatile. Reports of major displacement and indiscriminate attacks against civilians prompted an unusual call from UN human rights experts on 1 May for respect of international humanitarian law and for humanitarian access and safe passage for civilians.
A major offensive by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ethiopian troops to stabilise Mogadishu began in late April. A ceasefire was subsequently agreed between the TFG and the largest clan in Mogadishu. The TFG then announced that most of Mogadishu had been secured, although media reports suggested that fighting was ongoing.
At a Council briefing in late April, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Ato Seyoum Mesfin argued that the situation had improved, that two-thirds of Ethiopian troops had already withdrawn, and that the remainder would follow once AMISOM was reinforced. He further emphasised the need for a political solution, especially through an inclusive and credible national congress.
The Council on 30 April adopted a presidential statement that:
called on all parties to immediately end the hostilities and agree to a comprehensive ceasefire;
demanded that all parties in Somalia comply fully with international humanitarian law, protect the civilian population, and guarantee complete, unhindered and secure access for humanitarian assistance; and
called on the Transitional Federal Institutions to ensure that the national reconciliation congress is convened as soon as possible, and is truly representative of all segments of Somali society.
As anticipated in our May 2007 Forecast, the presidential statement largely accepted the Secretary-General’s recommendation that, in light of the open warfare in Mogadishu, the situation was not amenable to a UN peacekeeping mission at present. The statement requested the Secretary-General to instead begin contingency planning for a possible UN peacekeeping mission.
Events in May, including the killing of four AMISOM troops and the partial cancellation of Under Secretary-General John Holmes’ trip after attacks in mid-May, suggest that the insurgency is still very active. The former leader of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), Sheik Sharif Ahmed, and ousted parliament speaker Sheik Sharif Hassan Aden have reportedly urged insurgents to continue fighting Ethiopian troops. The conflict in Mogadishu seems to involve clan militias, UIC remnants and foreign fighters pitted against Ethiopian and TFG forces.
Meanwhile, AMISOM continues to struggle with difficulties with troop generation, logistics, funding and lack of security. So far, Uganda has contributed 1,500 troops but an estimated 8,000 are needed for AMISOM. It does not seem likely that troop reinforcements will materialise soon.
In Mogadishu on 11 May, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, François Lonseny Fall, met with the TFG to discuss preparations for the national congress and to convey the need for inclusiveness and a broad cessation of hostilities.
Lack of access and safety for aid deliveries-seemingly in part due to TFG policies-have severely obstructed the provision of humanitarian assistance to the majority of those in need. In a briefing to the Council on 21 May, Under Secretary-General Holmes underlined further concerns, including disagreements with the TFG on:
the severity of the crisis, as the TFG maintains that only 30,000 to 40,000 have been displaced, as opposed to UN reports estimating 365,000; and
reports of TFG forces violating international humanitarian law. (It seems that the TFG has agreed to an investigation by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.)
The Sanctions Committee held meetings in early May. States cited in the reports of the Monitoring Group as having violated the arms embargo were invited to an exchange of views with the Group and Council members. The Committee met Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Syria. It seems that all denied having violated the embargo.
Requesting a strengthening of the UN’s political involvement in Somalia, possibly through establishment of an advance political mission in Mogadishu. This option could both increase the levels of information on the conflict and strengthen important UN leadership in efforts to foster the national reconciliation process.
Decide that the Council itself should take a more leading role in consulting with key stakeholders, including regional players, on progress with the reconciliation process and outcome. This could include a small Council mission to the region, perhaps at the time of the Council’s visit to Africa, composed of two or three elected members and perhaps headed by the chair of the Council’s Working Group on Peacekeeping or of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa.
Act to support AMISOM by encouraging troop pledges, including through consultations with the AU during the Council visit to Addis Ababa. It seems that the AU is already getting ready to request a renewal of AMISOM’s mandate after it expires in August, given that a transfer to a UN operation is unlikely in the near future.
the degree of inclusiveness in the national reconciliation congress and in a future Somali unity government. Participation in the national congress is expected to be largely clan-based and may exclude independent participation by civil society groups and especially religious groups such as the UIC;
the lack of clarity on the upcoming national conference’s agenda, especially on power-sharing, and the outcome particularly vis-à-vis the future composition of the TFG;
the question of balance and impartiality in the process and whether increased UN participation in and assistance to the political process is necessary, particularly in light of the TFG’s apparent resistance to reopening certain aspects of the congress, especially regarding inclusiveness;
how to improve the security situation on the ground and encourage Ethiopia’s withdrawal. This includes the lack of prospects for a broad ceasefire in addition to troop and financial contributions to AMISOM. A related issue is the absence of mediators to encourage a wide cessation of hostilities; and
the regional dimension of the situation in Somalia, especially the movement of refugees, arms and combatants, and related violations of the arms embargo.
Most members agree that the security situation in Somalia is dire and that considerable progress with the national reconciliation process is needed. Members also seem to agree that strong international support for AMISOM is needed so that Ethiopian troops can withdraw soon.
The presidential statement of 30 April seems to have crystallised positions, especially about the need for progress with reconciliation and security if there is ever to be a transfer from AMISOM to a UN operation.
However, some significant divisions remain. Most members are very resistant about any transition to a UN peacekeeping mission and want to see considerable progress before any decision is reached. Some African members are strongly concerned with the lack of support for AMISOM and for future prospects to transfer peacekeeping responsibilities to the UN. Other members are supportive of Ethiopia’s intervention, especially the US. Those members are likely to be more flexible on this issue and seem ready to support transition sooner rather than later.
There remains a lack of clarity on how to address the difficulties with the national reconciliation process. Support for Somali ownership of the process seems at odds with the goal of inclusiveness. Interest in broader UN (including the Council’s) involvement in the reconciliation process seems mixed. Some are concerned about an excessive focus on peacekeeping. There is concern about the TFG and the issue of UIC participation.
|Security Council Resolution|
|Selected Presidential Statement|
|Latest Secretary-General’s Report|
|Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia|
|François Lonseny Fall (Guinea)|
|Chairman of the Somalia Sanctions Committee|
|Dumisani S. Kumalo (South Africa)|