April 2008 Monthly Forecast



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:

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:

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:

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

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:

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