It is unclear whether in August the Council will take up the full scope of issues relating to Somalia, especially in light of the detailed consideration given to it in resolution 1766 on 23 July which addressed the political reconciliation process, the arms embargo and the renewal of the sanctions Monitoring Group.
A resolution reauthorising the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), whose mandate expires on 20 August, is expected. Factors which could trigger a more substantial resolution include:
the possible need to step up pressure on the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) regarding political reconciliation;
AU requests for a financial, logistical and technical UN support package for AMISOM; and
the call from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for Council action against piracy off the coast of Somalia.
Key Recent Developments
The security and humanitarian situation in Somalia continues to be serious. Violence persists and piracy is increasing. There are increasing numbers of internally displaced persons and violence prevents the return of some 375,000 civilians who fled Mogadishu earlier this year. The violence is also taking a serious toll on the provision of humanitarian aid.
On 28 June, in a private Council debate, Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi reiterated calls from the TFG for a transition from AMISOM to a UN operation. A number of Council members responded that the deployment of a UN operation would depend on tangible progress with political reconciliation. At the meeting, Gedi renewed TFG pledges for an all-inclusive reconciliation conference.
On 15 July, the conference opened after two postponements. About 1,000 delegates attended but it was then suspended and marred by security problems.
Widespread criticism surrounded the conference’s opening. Observers noted that the agenda seemed to exclude the key issue of power-sharing. Some were also concerned about TFG dominance of the process and agenda, the absence of international officials to monitor the conference, and the absence of delegates from the main groups opposing the TFG. One of the main clans, the Hawiye, were not represented at a senior level. Representatives of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) refused to participate.
Some Hawiye leaders, together with the UIC, demand the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops and, for security reasons, the selection of a venue other than Mogadishu.
On 25 July, the TFG stated that the conference was open to all, including rebel legislators based in Asmara and insurgent fighters. It seems, however, that the TFG has still not satisfied concerns that the agenda is sufficiently open or the safety of delegates can be assured.
The AU Peace and Security Council adopted a communiqué on Somalia on 18 July renewing AMISOM for six months and appealing for transition to a UN peacekeeping operation. It also called for a UN assistance package for AMISOM.
The Secretary-General’s report in June repeated that a future UN operation would need robust capabilities concentrated in southcentral Somalia, given the destruction and chaos after years of conflict. To be effective and able to generate the necessary personnel, the operation would require a relatively stable environment, including a credible ceasefire, agreement from all major parties and an ongoing political process.
In early July, the IMO again raised the piracy issue. It suggested that Council members request the TFG to consent to the entrance of foreign ships in Somali waters to engage pirates. (Two years ago in 2005 an earlier IMO request led the Council to include language in a presidential statement (S/PRST/2006/11) encouraging states to “take appropriate action [in international waters and airspace adjacent to Somalia’s coast] to protect merchant shipping, in particular the transportation of humanitarian aid…in line with relevant international law.”)
a simple renewal of AMISOM’s authorisation;
emphasising the importance of generating sustainable voluntary funding for AMISOM, perhaps through convening an open Council debate including key partners and potential contributors;
addressing concretely the AU request for a support package, perhaps beginning with light logistics and technical assistance similar to the initial UN support package for the AU Mission in the Sudan (AMIS);
taking a more active role in fostering the political process by stepping up levels of UN engagement, particularly by taking the lead on the need to include power-sharing in the conference’s agenda and perhaps addressing the venue problem;
mandating the provision of senior UN political advisers to the conference’s organisational committee and requesting the establishment of a UN advance political mission in Mogadishu;
instituting a series of closed meetings with key stakeholders to monitor progress with the conference and efforts to reach a cessation of hostilities;
canvassing the possibility of a ceasefire, possibly including monitoring by UN observers;
responding positively to the IMO request; and
addressing specifically the regional dimension more comprehensively, in particular by bearing in mind the Eritrean dimension identified by the Monitoring Group and the likely connection with Ethiopian/Eritrean situation.
The key issue for the Council in August is renewal of the AMISOM mandate and whether to also take up at the same time wider issues, such as ensuring progress is made with all-inclusive political reconciliation.
A related issue is striking the appropriate balance between Somali ownership of the political process and the need for a comprehensive, widely accepted outcome. A connected issue is the risk associated with insufficient UN involvement early in the process, which in the past has led to unsustainable agreements that the UN may be called to assist in implementing through peacekeeping.
Another issue is how best to ensure security for the political process. Cessation of hostilities, Ethiopian troop withdrawal and strengthening AMISOM are key questions.
The issues of linkages with other regional problems and concerns with counterterrorism aspects are also likely to be on members’ minds.
There seems to be a relative consensus that, for now, the conditions for UN peacekeeping are not present and that significant progress with political reconciliation will be needed. Members so far appear to be in a wait-and-see mode on the reconciliation conference, albeit there is strong sympathy for the difficulties faced by AMISOM and some support for a practical response to AU requests.
Some seem increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress with reconciliation and concerned about the TFG’s role in leading a process that has so far only resulted in non-participation of the very parties who need to be at the table. There seems also to be concern with the lack of transparency in the conduct of the conference and participation. Some have an interest in stepping up signals to the TFG on the need to deliver and on the establishment of a ceasefire.
African members remain strongly concerned with the lack of support for AMISOM and for future prospects to transfer peacekeeping responsibilities to the UN. Eventual transition to UN peacekeeping seems to be viewed positively in principle by the US, the UK, China and Italy.
There is some concern about limiting Council and UN involvement to merely assessing the fulfilment of conditions for UN peacekeeping deployments.
Overall, most members seem to view the strengthening of AMISOM as the best short-term solution, but some may be uncomfortable with adopting an assistance package that includes UN financial resources.
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|February 2007 to present; AU mandate expires on 17 January 2008 and Council authorisation expires on 20 August 2007