March 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2008
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Expected Council Action
The Council is awaiting a report from the Secretary-General on results of the Secretariat’s strategic assessment and fact-finding mission to Somalia. The results are expected to include:

  • options for future UN involvement, such as relocating the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) to Mogadishu;
  • progress with contingency planning for a UN peacekeeping mission; and
  • proposals for UN assistance to the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

The report, originally due in February, is now expected by 10 March.

Consultations are likely to explore proposals to ameliorate the security situation, give assistance to AMISOM, and support political reconciliation. At press time, it was unclear whether this would translate into action in March.

Key Recent Developments
The humanitarian situation in Somalia continues to deteriorate rapidly. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that close to two million people are in need of humanitarian assistance for the next six months.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that aid operations have never been as restricted as at present, with roadblocks, shelling, and the targeting of aid workers. On 8 and 9 February, four grenades were thrown at the UN compound in Mogadishu. No casualties were reported.

Because of the insecurity and lawlessness, a number of relief organisations have decided to pull out staff. In early February, Denmark took over naval anti-piracy patrols from France for two months, providing protection for UN food shipments, the World Food Programme reported.

The regional situation is also volatile, particularly the standoff between Ethiopia and Eritrea, recent events surrounding the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea and the unrest in Kenya. (For more details, please see our Kenya brief in this issue.)

The Council heard a briefing by the Secretariat on 15 February, where the preliminary findings of the Secretariat’s recent fact-finding mission to Somalia were presented. (Options on future UN involvement will be discussed after the Secretary-General’s forthcoming report is received in March.) Among the issues raised were:

  • humanitarian and security situations;
  • strengthening AMISOM; and
  • political reconciliation.

On 15 February, Somali and AU representatives made an urgent plea to the Council at an open meeting, calling for future UN takeover of peacekeeping responsibilities in Somalia. AU Permanent Observer Lila H. Ratsifandrihamanana also called for UN assistance to AMISOM in the meantime, noting that the AU plans to hold a high-level meeting to refocus international attention on Somalia and mobilise support for the political process. She further called upon the Council to consider changes to the arms embargo to allow the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to establish and equip defence forces, and to take action against peace spoilers.

On February 20, the Council adopted resolution 1801, which, inter alia:

  • renewed the Council’s authorisation for AMISOM for six months;
  • requested the Secretary-General to intensify his political reconciliation efforts and, looking forward to his forthcoming report, requested options to strengthen UNPOS, support full AMISOM deployment and prepare for possible UN peacekeeping in Somalia; and
  • called upon all international organisations and member states to support the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, and requested that “they work through him at all times so that a coordinated effort can be attained.”

The new Somali Prime Minister, Nur Hassan Hussein, appears to have initiated dialogue with various stakeholders including opposition groups, but details remain unclear. The Prime Minister has seemingly indicated his willingness to talk to the Asmara-based Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (an umbrella group based in Eritrea and co-chaired by former Union of Islamic Courts leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed).

During a trip to Qatar and Egypt in mid-February, Ahmed reiterated the Alliance’s position that as a precondition to reconciliation talks, Ethiopian troops should leave, an idea which the TFG has resisted given its security needs.

Regarding security, the most likely option in the short term will be exploring ways to strengthen AMISOM, including a UN support package. Other options include:

  • considering a pledging conference for AMISOM, perhaps through the auspices of the AU and the International Contact Group;
  • considering alternatives in case additional troop contributions to AMISOM do not materialise;
  • discussing arrangements in that regard with potential troop contributors (from Africa and outside), the AU and perhaps the Arab League;
  • exploring options within the sanctions regime, such as targeted measures against spoilers.

Regarding political reconciliation, one option is to continue to push for a cessation of hostilities and new broad-based negotiations. Related options include:

  • endorsing a package to strengthen the role of UNPOS, including relocation to Mogadishu as well as related security requirements;
  • actively supporting Ould-Abdallah’s efforts to coordinate mediation initiatives, perhaps by sponsoring a meeting with the AU, the Arab League and concerned member states;
  • encouraging the development of a detailed plan for an all-inclusive reconciliation conference, agreed amongst key Somali stakeholders, on participation, venue, agenda and modalities.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is how best to support progress on the political and security tracks.

On political reconciliation, the question is how to establish a meaningful, inclusive dialogue process and to steer the parties towards:

  • all-inclusive talks, including the participation of insurgents and dealing with reservations by some states about reported connections between some rebels and terrorist organisations;
  • a compromise power-sharing arrangement; and
  • a new constitution and elections in 2009 as envisaged in the Transitional Federal Charter.

An emerging issue is the potential for proliferation of regional mediation efforts and related concerns with lack of coordination.

For the security crisis, issues include:

  • the need for Ethiopian withdrawal and the security vacuum this might leave for the TFG;
  • the decision of some insurgents to oppose political talks while Ethiopian troops are on the ground;
  • fragmentation among insurgents, in particular the rise of the al-Shabaab militia and its international connections;
  • related concerns with the possible connections between insurgents and terrorist groups;
  • support for AMISOM, and whether other member states are willing to participate militarily;
  • funding issues—including whether the Council is willing to agree to finance support packages from the UN budget; and
  • whether conditions exist for UN peacekeeping.

A third set of issues relates to how best to manage the wider linkages between the situation in Somalia and the region, in particular Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Council Dynamics
There is continuing consensus within the Council on the need for progress with security and political reconciliation.

Discussions leading to resolution 1801 revealed disagreement on whether to renew AMISOM’s authorisation as a short rollover. This was apparently proposed by South Africa to ensure a substantial follow-up to the Secretary-General’s forthcoming report, with strong support from Italy and the US. Others—including the UK, France, Belgium and Russia—appear to have preferred to renew it for six months and appeared cautious about possible signals emerging from a rollover, including lack of support for the mission or perceptions that UN peacekeeping was imminent.

On the political track, support for a meaningful and inclusive process—leading to a new constitutional process and elections in 2009—continues to be the guiding principle. However, members seem cautious about pressure on the TFG to move towards resuming talks. Members also appear sympathetic to ongoing regional efforts on political reconciliation but are concerned about coordination issues that this may create for Ould-Abdallah.

Members now seem focused on the forthcoming report, and keen on receiving practical options for action. African members seem very concerned with AMISOM’s prospects and strongly support UN peacekeeping. Others still appear concerned that the environment so far is not conducive for a UN peacekeeping operation and that there may be difficulties with troop and asset generation per the example of the UN-AU hybrid mission in Darfur (UNAMID).

There continues to be strong support for strengthening AMISOM, including a UN support package, and for creating conditions for Ethiopian withdrawal. Some, especially the US and European members, seem reluctant about direct UN financial assistance and concerned about repeating the experience with support packages in Darfur, preferring instead to focus on logistical, communications and management support.

Most seem unenthusiastic about the viability of sanctions options.

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UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1801 (20 February 2008) renewed AMISOM for six months.
  • S/RES/733 (23 January 1992) imposed the arms embargo.
Reports and Letters of the Secretary-General
  • S/2007/762 (27 December 2007) renewed UNPOS.
  • S/2007/658 ( 7 November 2007 ) was the latest Secretary-General’s report.
Latest Monitoring Group’s Report
  • S/PV.5837 (15 February 2008) was the recent AU briefing to the Council.

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 2,000 Ugandan and Burundian troops
AMISOM: Duration
February 2007 to present; AU mandate expires on 18 July 2008 and Council authorisation expires on 20 August 2008

Full forecast

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