February 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 January 2008
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Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to renew authorisation for the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which expires on 20 February. An open debate is also expected in mid-January.

The Council is also due to receive a report from the Secretary-General on contingency planning for UN peacekeeping in Somalia, as well as options for strengthening AMISOM. It is unclear whether the report will be ready before the AMISOM reauthorisation.

The new authorisation resolution is likely to repeat key messages on the need for political reconciliation, improving the humanitarian situation and strengthening AMISOM. On the other hand, it is unclear whether new options will emerge, particularly on the security dimension.

Key Recent Developments
Clashes between insurgents and Ethiopian troops alongside Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces continued in recent weeks, especially in Mogadishu and its environs. TFG and Ethiopian forces have responded with cordon-and-search operations and roadblocks. Both sides have been accused of abuse against civilians, violations of international law and harassment of aid workers.

Piracy off the Somali coast continues to rise. The number of incidents reportedly tripled in 2007.

The security deterioration continues to take a toll on the civilian population, with mounting displacement and obstacles to aid delivery. This has been compounded by forced evictions of displaced persons by TFG officials attempting to regain the use of former government buildings and deny territory to insurgents.

The regional situation has also deteriorated with political instability in Kenya and the continuing dangerous standoff between Ethiopia and Eritrea .

The TFG’s attempts to improve its legitimacy and gather support from the political opposition continues. Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein announced his new cabinet in early January. After a difficult start in December, it now appears that a smaller new cabinet of 18 ministers will be formed. Half the ministers are from outside the parliament, in a bid to form a more professional and less politically charged cabinet. A number of members of the Somali transitional parliament have already criticised the nominations, some complaining about the exclusion of their respective clans.

It is unclear whether the government will be able to improve relations with the opposition, in particular the Hawiye clan’s leadership. It seems that consultations are being held with a view towards a large reconciliation conference but the prospects are unclear.

Fragmentation also seems to be increasing within the insurgency. Media reports suggest that there are increasing divergences between the al-Shabaab militia (formerly associated with the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and still active in Somalia ) and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (an umbrella group based in Eritrea and co-chaired by former UIC leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed).

In mid-January, the AU renewed AMISOM.

After significant delays, a Burundian contingent of about 630 troops was reportedly deployed in recent weeks to reinforce AMISOM. It is unclear if and when pledges from Nigeria and Ghana will materialise. Funding reportedly stands at about 5 percent of AMISOM’s budget of $622 million.

A fresh AU initiative for Somalia appears in the works, including a road map for the political, security, humanitarian and capacity-building dimensions.

Related Developments in the Sanctions Committee
On 15 January, the Committee heard a briefing by the Monitoring Group on its recent interim report. It appears that the Group continues to note mounting violations of the arms embargo as well as the rise of the al-Shabaab, which appears to receive regional and international assistance.

Divisions continue on whether to strengthen the embargo and address violations, including through targeted measures. Most members still seem reluctant to explore new options to strengthen the sanctions regime. Some seem sceptical about the feasibility of new measures, given their potential ineffectiveness. Others seem to resist responses to alleged violations of the embargo, in part due to sympathies towards the concerns from some states identified in the reports of the Monitoring Group.

The most likely option seems to be a rollover of the authorisation for AMISOM and further discussions on the necessary conditions for any UN operation, in effect continuing the Council’s “wait and see” mode pending new initiatives from the TFG and possible international partners.

A further option is for members to take more proactive action in response to last month’s call from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, for renewed international engagement on the political and security tracks.

Options on the security track include sponsoring a major initiative to strengthen AMISOM, either through the Council’s Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations or the International Contact Group for Somalia . This could include:

  • signalling willingness to consider extending the authorisation for AMISOM to a wider group of countries;
  • a pledging conference;
  • meetings with potential contributors (from Africa and outside), the AU and perhaps the Arab League; and
  • developing a UN support package for AMISOM following the Darfur model.

Regarding the political dimension, one option is to explicitly push for much more broadly-based negotiations than has been the case to date, and:

  • demanding a ceasefire to facilitate negotiations;
  • requesting the Secretary-General to immediately increase resources to support a negotiating process designed to lead to a genuine government of national unity, including sufficient resources for appropriate close protection security for UN personnel involved; and
  • encouraging a more detailed plan from Ould-Abdallah, agreed with key Somali stakeholders, on participation, venue, agenda and modalities for an all-inclusive reconciliation conference.

Another option would be to address the increasing piracy. This could include calling on the TFG to enter into agreements to allow concerned UN member states’ naval vessels access to Somali territorial waters for counter-piracy patrols.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is whether and how to become more active on both the security and political tracks, beyond general statements of support.

On the political dimension, the key issue is how best to establish a meaningful, inclusive dialogue process and to steer the parties towards:

  • a compromise power-sharing arrangement; and
  • a new constitution and elections in 2009 as envisaged in the Transitional Federal Charter.

A related issue is whether UIC elements must be included and, if so, how to overcome reservations by those concerned about possible terrorist connections.

For the security situation, issues include:

  • the need for Ethiopian withdrawal;
  • the need for support for AMISOM, and particularly whether there are possibilities of military support from a wider range of UN member states, and whether the authorising resolution should therefore be broader;
  • funding issues—including whether the Council is willing to agree to fund support packages from the UN budget; and
  • whether conditions exist for UN peacekeeping.

An emerging issue is the potential lack of coordination amongst various international peacemaking and security initiatives.

Council Dynamics
Council members seem inclined to move forward with political reconciliation issues. There continues to be support for AMISOM, and some interest in looking at options on how best to address piracy issues.

Support for a meaningful and inclusive political process is strong. This would be focused on establishing a new constitutional process towards elections in 2009, with substantial UN support. Some have expressed support for TFG leadership in this regard, but there has been frustration among members also about the degree of TFG openness to meaningful negotiations. Given the new Somali cabinet, however, it is unclear how far members will want to go in February in terms of pressuring the TFG to move forward with a new political process.

On security, while there is consensus that AMISOM should be strengthened, some (such as Belgium and Russia ) have already voiced concerns that the current environment is not sufficiently permissive to allow a UN peacekeeping operation. Others now seem to privately agree with this conclusion. Some appear concerned about the negative effects of wider linkages between improving security and counter-terrorism activities in Somalia .

Nevertheless, some have continued to insist that the Secretariat present a detailed contingency peacekeeping plan.

Most seem open to options whereby other member states beyond the AU would be authorised to provide support for AMISOM or some other coalition model, but note that the absence of concrete proposals prevents serious consideration of formal Council action in that regard. Some UN members appear to be bilaterally looking into options to support AMISOM, but so far substantive discussions have not taken place within the Council.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1772 (20 August 2007) renewed AMISOM.
  • S/RES/733 (23 January 1992) imposed the arms embargo.
Selected Presidential Statement
  • S/PRST/2007/49 (19 December 2007) was a presidential statement setting an 8 February deadline for a peacekeeping assessment report.
Latest Secretary-General’s Report
  • S/PV.5805 (17 December 2007) was the latest Council briefing by Ould-Abdallah.
  • S/2005/729 (16 November 2005) and S/2005/730 (21 November 2005) was an exchange of letters renewing the mandate of UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS).
  • S/2007/436(17 July 2007) was the latest Monitoring Group’s report.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah (Mauritania)
Chairman of the Sanctions Committee
Dumisani S. Kumalo (South Africa)
AMISOM: Size and Composition
  • Maximum authorised strength: 7,650 troops plus maritime and air components.
  • Strength as of 1 January 2008: about 2,240 Ugandan and Burundian troops
AMISOM: Duration
February 2007 to present; AU mandate expires on 18 July 2008 and Council authorisation expires on 20 February 2008

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