April 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 March 2008
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Expected Council Action
Pressure on the Council to do something on Somalia is likely to continue in April. At press time, an Arria-style meeting with NGOs to discuss Somalia was scheduled for 31 March under UK chairmanship.

Also, members had started expert-level consultations on a draft response to the Secretary-General’s 14 March report. Elements expected to be considered include:

  • supporting the Secretary-General’s phased strategic approach;
  • supporting political reconciliation in Somalia and, in this context, strengthening and safely relocating the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) back to Somalia;
  • strengthening the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), including a UN support package; and
  • arrangements for international assistance to patrol Somali waters and address piracy.

The expected high-level thematic debate on cooperation with regional organisations (organised at the initiative of the South African presidency), and the Council’s expected joint meeting with the AU Peace and Security Council in April are also likely to put the spotlight on Somalia.

The Council is also expected to renew the mandate of the sanctions Monitoring Group, which expires on 30 April. The Group’s report is due in mid-April.

Key Recent Developments
Fighting between insurgents, Ethiopian troops and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces continued unabated in Mogadishu, and markedly increased in south-central Somalia. There was a sharp increase in attacks by the al-Shabaab militia, which appear to have a scale and organisation unprecedented over the past twelve months.

On 3 March, the US launched strikes at an alleged al-Qaeda target in southern Somalia, reportedly an al-Shabaab commander. Washington subsequently included the al-Shabaab in its list of terrorist organisations.

There are now more than 700,000 displaced Somalis and increasing reports of lack of access to food, water and humanitarian assistance. Complaints persist against TFG and Ethiopian forces for abuse of the civilian population, attacks on media outlets and killings and looting at Mogadishu’s Bakara market (a stronghold of the Hawiye clan). (On 5 March, the Council was briefed on the latter.)

In a 20 February letter, AU Commissioner Alpha Konaré presented proposals for a UN assistance package for AMISOM. This comprised approximately $800 million in financial support plus an appropriate number of management staff and logistical support.

On 14 March, the Secretary-General presented proposals for a broader UN strategic perspective for Somalia and contingency peacekeeping plans. The strategy comprises three pillars—political, security and programmatic—and envisages four phases and related activities around those three pillars, including:

  • first, facilitate UN support for political reconciliation by gradually relocating UN staff to south-central Somalia (options for security for UN personnel are still being developed), strengthen AMISOM and reach agreement on an agenda for reconciliation talks. (The Secretary-General also recommended that the Council strengthen the mandate and capacity of UNPOS, authorise a “coalition of willing partners” to secure key areas and perhaps establish a maritime task force);
  • secondly, after political dialogue is established with initial support from 60-70 percent of Somali actors, move UNPOS to Mogadishu and table a proposal for Ethiopian withdrawal;
  • thirdly, after a broad-based political agreement, including a code of conduct on use of arms and a phased Ethiopian withdrawal, begin deployment of an 8,000-strong impartial stabilisation force to complement AMISOM; and
  • fourthly, when political agreements and the security situation are consolidated, and there is clear support from local actors for UN deployments, begin deployment of a 30,000-strong UN peacekeeping operation.

On 20 March, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah and Assistant Secretary-General Edmond Mulet briefed the Council. Ould-Abdallah argued that the Council should consider, alongside AMISOM, a “strong interim multinational presence.” He also stressed that accountability issues should be addressed and that those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity should be brought to account in the International Criminal Court or other international or local forum. He further suggested establishing a commission of inquiry into serious crimes.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin and Ould-Abdallah separately visited Somalia in late February. Reports suggest that there was a difference of views between Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf and Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein on participation in future reconciliation talks, with Hussein favouring the inclusion of all opposition groups.

In a 12 March statement, the TFG said it was “ready to reconcile with any Somali citizen,” and that negotiations could take place at “any location” under Ould-Abdallah’s mediation. The Special Representative is now expected to begin contacting key stakeholders on timing and modalities for the talks.

Important divisions remain. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, leader of the Asmara-based Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, continues to condition talks on Ethiopian withdrawal. Al-Shabaab reportedly ruled out reconciliation with some elements in the TFG—even if Ethiopian troops leave. It is hostile to all foreign peacekeepers.

One option for the Council in April is to adopt a resolution:

  • supporting the “strategic approach” and agreeing on the sequencing of the various steps in the process;
  • adopting a support package for AMISOM;
  • strengthening UNPOS’ mandate;
  • authorising UNPOS’ relocation to Somalia and appropriate close protection security for the UN office and personnel;
  • authorising international maritime patrolling of Somali waters;
  • expressing support for Ould-Abdallah’s efforts and addressing the framework for political reconciliation talks and accountability issues;
  • renewing the mandate of the sanctions Monitoring Group;
  • adopting a spectrum of targeted sanctions for dealing with any actors that refuse to enter into or frustrate political talks; and
  • taking up the justice and accountability issue, and, as a first step, requesting the Secretary-General to develop recommendations regarding a commission of inquiry.

Other options—if Council members are not ready to go so far—include:

  • calling for a funding conference for AMISOM, perhaps through the auspices of the AU and the International Contact Group;
  • encouraging additional troop contributions to reinforce AMISOM, perhaps by inviting potential troop contributors (from the AU and the Arab League) to meet with the Council (or perhaps its working group on peacekeeping) and indicating a willingness to include non-AU contingents within a new authorisation resolution;
  • on political reconciliation, vigorously demanding a cessation of hostilities and new broad-based negotiations, while actively supporting Ould-Abdallah’s current mediation (perhaps by inviting the AU, the Arab League and concerned member states to a meeting in New York); and
  • encouraging the Secretary-General to quickly providing a detailed plan for solely relocating UNPOS and recommendations on support for AMISOM.

Key Issues
The key immediate issue for the Council is whether to endorse and begin to implement the phased approach proposed by the Secretary-General more or less as a whole, or whether to decide to consider the various proposals incrementally.

But fundamental issues underlie this question.

The UN seems to be about to become engaged in progressively rehabilitating Somalia back to the status of sovereign state under the UN Charter and international law; but the question is whether internal, regional and international legitimacy can be restored and violent opposition quietened by addressing only some of the symptoms of the current malaise.

The Secretary-General’s strategic framework goes some way towards addressing a number of aspects of this issue. However, it remains to be seen if it is sufficiently comprehensive, neutral and consistent with past lessons learned—including the importance of consent and of justice and accountability issues. It seems that a sustainable strategy for Somalia would require the Council and key stakeholders to meaningfully address a number of critical related questions:

  • How broad-based should the political reconciliation process be? This includes deciding on some principles on how far to go in including elements of the Islamic opposition, and with what limitations. It seems that any future framework would need to balance (i) how to get enough of the opposition to the table to secure legitimacy and a reasonable prospect of negotiating an end to much of the violence; (ii) how best to deal with the al-Shabaab and its apparent refusal to participate in political talks with some in the TFC leadership; and (iii) the security concerns of Ethiopia as well as the US.
  • Critical to the security situation is a major parallel question: the Council has remained silent about the presence and conduct of Ethiopian troops, as well as foreign involvement in the insurgency and the US military strikes against targets of opportunity in Somalia. Council members at this point are likely to prefer a forward-looking approach rather than revisiting the past. However, in as much as these issues continue into the future, the potential remains for serious negative impacts on the reconciliation process if the UN and the Council, because of ongoing silence, can be accused of being partial.
  • Can the Council continue to avoid recognising the regional dimension to the violence in Somalia, in particular the impact that the absence of a comprehensive Council approach towards the Eritrea-Ethiopia border standoff is having?
  • Are major financial and troop contributors seriously ready to entertain a path that will very likely lead to a huge expansion of peacekeeping activity? Meaningful progress in Somalia will require contributors to invest very substantially.
  • Should the Council include in the sequence steps to address justice and accountability issues?

Council Dynamics
Most members appear to have welcomed the Secretary-General’s strategic framework for Somalia. There seems to be much support—in principle—for a comprehensive approach involving sequential elements and a blueprint culminating in a UN operation. But there is growing acknowledgement that UN peacekeeping deployments in Somalia will not be feasible at this stage in the absence of progress in the political and security dimensions. Members’ focus as a result seems to be shifting towards strengthening AMISOM, relocating UNPOS to Somalia and making arrangements for a maritime task force.

There is a degree of frustration—particularly among African members—about the lack of specific options from the Secretary-General for improving the security situation and supporting AMISOM in the short term. There is also scepticism about the feasibility of a stabilisation force separate from AMISOM, as proposed by the Secretary-General.

Pressure for adopting a UN support package is likely to continue, although African members appear to have adopted a cautious stance on the Konaré letter, not wanting at the outset to stimulate opposition from top UN financial contributors. Some members—including France, the US and Russia—appear opposed to using UN assessed contributions to finance AMISOM; others have complained of double-standards regarding UN assistance to the AU in Darfur.

On the maritime task force, there is reluctance within the Council about adopting a mandate that could lead to the use of force or is linked to counter-terrorism objectives.

On political reconciliation, some members still seem cautious about pressure on the TFG. And there appears to be concern from some, in particular the US, about inclusiveness because of some insurgents’ alleged terrorist linkages and sympathy towards Ethiopian concerns.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1801 (20 February 2008) renewed AMISOM for six months.
  • S/RES/733 (23 January 1992) imposed an arms embargo.

Latest Report of the Secretary-General

  • S/2008/178 (14 March 2008), which included the recent AU request for a $800 million UN support package.

Latest Monitoring Group’s Report


  • S/PV.5858 (20 March 2008) was the recent Ould-Abdallah briefing.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNPOS

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah (Mauritania)

Chairman of the Sanctions Committee

Dumisani S. Kumalo (South Africa)

AMISOM: Size, Composition and Cost

  • Maximum authorised strength: 7,650 troops plus maritime and air components
  • Strength as of 14 March 2008: about 2,500 Ugandan and Burundian troops
  • Key financial contributors: EU, Italy, Sweden, China and the Arab League

AMISOM: Duration

February 2007 to present: AU mandate expires on 18 July 2008 and Council authorisation expires on 20 August 2008

Useful Additional Source

Full forecast