July 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 June 2008
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Expected Council Action
The Secretary-General’s report on Somalia, requested in resolution 1814, is due in July. It is expected to include an update on:

  • the Secretary-General’s strategy for Somalia, including relocation of the UN Political Office (UNPOS) to Somalia;
  • efforts to establish a humanitarian coordination mechanism; and
  • progress with establishing a human rights capacity within UNPOS.

A Secretariat briefing and consultations are likely. It is unclear whether formal action will emerge. Members will be paying close attention to developments following the recent agreement between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and elements from the opposition. Of particular importance will be whether concrete proposals for a multinational coalition force for Somalia will emerge.

The AU’s mandate for its Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) expires on 18 July, but the mission’s Council authorisation continues until 20 August.

Recommendations from the sanctions committee to the Council on targeted measures are due in mid-July.

Key Recent Developments
Humanitarian conditions in Somalia continue to worsen. Drought, inflation and soaring food prices threaten general starvation. There are now one million internally displaced and 450,000 Somali refugees. An estimated 2.6 million—more than a third of the population—are currently in need of assistance.

All sides—the TFG, Ethiopian forces and the opposing Shabaab militia—are being accused of violations against children, the Secretary-General reported on 30 May. He encouraged the Council to refer such violations to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Fighting involving TFG and Ethiopian forces against the Shabaab militia continues. On 1 May, Shabaab leader Aden Hashi Farah Ayrow was killed in a US air strike.

The regional situation also continued to deteriorate in June as fighting erupted between Eritrean and Djiboutian forces.

On 15 May, the Council adopted resolution 1814, which included:

  • strong support for the Secretary-General’s incremental approach;
  • continued contingency planning for UN peacekeeping; and
  • a request for security arrangements to support relocation of UNPOS to Somalia.

In mid-May, peace talks commenced in Djibouti between the TFG and a wing of the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) under Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, mediated by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. In late May, a Council mission met these two parties in Djibouti. (For more information, please see our 22 May Update Report.)

On 9 June, these two parties reached agreement on:

  • a 90-day renewable cessation of hostilities, starting within 30 days;
  • the deployment within 120 days of a Council-authorised “international stabilisation force” excluding neighbouring countries, and Ethiopian withdrawal “after the deployment of a sufficient number of UN forces;”
  • a statement by the ARS group condemning violence and disassociating itself from recalcitrant groups;
  • pledges to ensure unhindered humanitarian access and assistance;
  • a UN-chaired Joint Security Committee to oversee implementation; and
  • a UN-chaired high-level committee to follow up on political cooperation between the parties and justice and reconciliation, and a related conference by 30 July.

The agreement is expected to be signed in Saudi Arabia in early July and Special Representative Ould-Abdallah is apparently working with regional partners on the proposed “stabilisation force,” but prospects are unclear.

There is concern about the viability of the agreement. This flow from the fact that the key opposition combatants were not at the table from the vagueness in the criteria for Ethiopian withdrawal (i.e., “sufficient number of UN forces”), and a perceived lack of realistic prospects for an “international stabilisation force.”

ARS leader Hassan Dahir Aweys and the Shabaab pledged to continue fighting, reiterating opposition to peace talks and international deployments. The Shabaab since then launched a number of attacks.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi reportedly said withdrawal could only happen “when we are convinced that there is no imminent danger.”

On 2 June, the Council adopted resolution 1816 authorising states cooperating with the TFG to take action to against piracy and robbery off the Somali coast, after notification to the Secretary-General by the TFG.

Related Developments in the Sanctions Committee
In early April, the Sanctions Committee received the Monitoring Group’s final report, which noted continuous arms flows into Somalia. All sides have reportedly had a role in violations, including the TFG and the Shabaab, as well as Ethiopia, Yemen, Eritrea and the US. The report says Ugandan troops under AMISOM, TFG and Ethiopian forces have been involved in arms sales. Uganda, Yemen and Ethiopia denied the findings.

The most likely option for the Council in the short term is a further discussion of the situation in Somalia, followed perhaps with a statement on political reconciliation and support for the Djibouti agreement, and indicating that contingency planning for UN peacekeeping should continue. References to humanitarian access and respect for international humanitarian law, and support for strengthening of UNPOS and its relocation to Somalia are also possible.

Strengthening the sanctions regime, possibly through targeted measures against peace-spoilers and violators of the arms embargo is also an option. This would require a resolution establishing targeted measures and mandating the Sanctions Committee to adopt a list of individuals and entities. It seems unlikely that this will be taken up in July.

Another option might be to focus on encouraging greater UN assistance to AMISOM, perhaps requesting detailed recommendations from the Secretary-General in that regard.

Other options might include:

  • addressing seriously the feasibility of a coalition of states providing the international stabilisation force requested in the Djibouti agreement (It remains to be seen whether concrete proposals will emerge under Ould-Abdallah’s leadership but informal meeting between the AU, the Arab League and concerned states might be of assistance in that regard);
  • requesting states to cooperate with the TFG in curbing arms shipments to Somalia, perhaps using a framework similar to that established in resolution 1816;
  • requesting states to report directly to the Sanctions Committee on measures taken to implement the arms embargo; and
  • considering options regarding justice and accountability, including referral to the ICC.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is that the political process in Somalia does not seem likely to quickly improve security and create conditions for Ethiopian withdrawal. A related issue given the security situation is how far to go in supporting the Djibouti agreement.

A fundamental question is whether it will ever be possible to attract the other ARS elements and the Shabaab into a peace process. So far, peacemaking initiatives have emphasised inclusiveness, but recent statements from the Shabaab and other ARS elements indicate that they refuse a negotiated agreement with the TFG and are intent on fighting. This may encourage a Council policy of containment and deterrence as exemplified in the Djibouti agreement’s request for an international stabilisation force.

The prospects for such a force—particularly a UN blue helmet operation—seem limited in the near future. The issue is whether there is anything else the Council can and should do to improve security and allay Ethiopian and TFG concerns. Strengthening AMISOM has been a perennial issue in this regard, but difficulties with financing and troop generation indicate that this may not be a credible option.

Other issues include:

  • addressing the regional dimension, concerns about terrorism by the US and others, and the impact that these have on political reconciliation efforts;
  • ensuring UNPOS’ security and relocation;
  • addressing violations of international humanitarian law and lack of humanitarian access; and
  • action on human rights and justice issues.

Council Dynamics
Members welcome the recent Djibouti agreement and Ould-Abdallah’s initiatives. But there is painful awareness of the potential weaknesses. Members seem genuinely stalemated by the lack of feasible options for improving security and creating genuine political reconciliation.

Some—such as African members, China, the US and Italy—have strongly supported the view that the Council should express determination to have a UN military force. However, there seems to be private acknowledgement that all of the existing options—a coalition stabilisation force, strengthening AMISOM, or deploying a UN operation—are problematic.

Some are interested in sanctions, but for others there is continuing scepticism about new measures, given their potential ineffectiveness.

Options for measures on human rights, justice and accountability are likely to continue to face traditional Council divisions.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1816 (2 June 2008) authorised action against piracy in Somalia.
  • S/RES/1814 (15 May 2008) requested an update to the Secretary-General’s phased approach.
  • S/RES/1801 (20 February 2008) renewed AMISOM for six months.
  • S/RES/733 (23 January 1992) imposed an arms embargo.

Selected Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2008/20 (12 June 2008) called for a ceasefire between Djibouti and Eritrea.

Selected Reports of the Secretary-General

  • S/2008/352 (30 May 2008) was the report on children.
  • S/2008/178 (14 March 2008) contained the strategy for Somalia.

Latest Monitoring Group’s Report


  • S/2008/460 (15 July 2008) was the report of the Security Council mission to Africa.
  • S/PV.5915 (18 June 2008) was a briefing by the Council mission to Africa.
  • S/2008/309 (9 May 2008) was the Secretary-General’s response to the AU’s request for UN assistance to AMISOM.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah (Mauritania)

UNPOS: Size and Cost

  • Maximum authorised size: 44 international and 28 local civilians
  • Size as of 30 April 2008: 18 international and 11 local civilians
  • 2008 budget: about $16 million

UNPOS: Duration

15 April 1995 to present; mandate expires on 31 December 2009

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

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