November 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 October 2008
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Expected Council Action
The Council is expecting a consolidated report from the Secretary-General, (due on 4 November, but likely to be delayed) which should include four elements:

  • the regular quarterly update on developments in Somalia;
  • a response to the Council’s request in its presidential statement of 4 September (S/PRST/2008/33) that the Secretary-General elaborate contingency plans for a feasible multinational force (this is expected to include a detailed description of a possible mandate and operational tasks for such a force, including size and geographical scope)—in addition a detailed concept of operations for a feasible UN peacekeeping mission is expected;
  • the requested update on the implementation of the Djibouti Agreement between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS); and
  • a report on the implementation of resolution 1816 of 2 June 2008 permitting states to enter Somalia’s territorial waters to counter piracy.

A Secretariat briefing is also likely. Unless a comprehensive ceasefire takes hold, the Council is unlikely to act on the military options in the report in November. Extended discussion among Council members will probably be needed. Further action on political aspects, however, could be an option for the Council in November.

The Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation is expected to brief the Council on issues related to piracy and Council action to renew the provision in resolution 1816 authorising states to enter Somalia’s territorial waters (which expires on 2 December 2008) is also a possibility in November.

Key Recent Developments
On 7 October the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1838, once again addressing the issue of piracy off the coast of Somalia. The resolution, drafted by France and co-sponsored by 17 countries, reflects concerns about the increasing levels of sophistication of pirates operating off the coast of Somalia including attacking larger ships further offshore. It did not contain any new legal provisions. The focus was political with calls for more active participation by states to combat piracy and calls on states and regional organisations to coordinate their actions.

NATO, on 9 October, agreed to send seven frigates to join anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia. On 14 October the EU said that it is aiming to deploy a joint air and naval force in December to combat piracy. The Netherlands took over the escort of the World Food Program convoys on 23 October when Canada ended its mission, sending a Dutch frigate which will provide protection until 10 December. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian ship MV Faina, held by pirates since the end of September, had yet to be released at press time.

Developments inside Somalia have continued on a largely negative path. In Mogadishu, attacks have intensified, increasingly targeting the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Forces opposed to the TFG are more fragmented, but not necessarily weaker. Al Shabaab and the Union of Islamic Courts have been gaining further ground in the south. Security concerns prompted the UN to temporarily relocate its international staff from Marka, in southeastern Somalia, after an explosion hit a UN vehicle, killing the driver and slightly wounding two UN personnel, an Italian and a Somali. Towards the end of the month TFG troops reportedly recaptured the three towns of Bardale, Wajid and Hudur near Baidoa from Islamist insurgents.

On 11 and 12 October approximately 800 additional Burundian troops were deployed in Mogadishu, bringing the strength of AMISOM to a total of just over 3,000. At least two of the newly arrived soldiers were wounded within hours of their arrival when an AMISOM vehicle was hit by an explosive device. On 16 October Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said that Ethiopian forces would stay in Somalia at least until AMISOM is fully deployed.

The humanitarian situation continues to be critical. The total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has increased and is now estimated at over 1 million by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. In the lower Shabelle region between Mogadishu and Afgooye, heavy rain left thousands of IDPs without shelter, exacerbating an already dire situation. On 6 October, 52 NGOs operating in Somalia issued a statement expressing grave concern about “the devastating humanitarian crisis in Somalia”. Recalling that 3.25 million people are in need of emergency aid (up by 77 percent since the beginning of 2008) and that 1.1 million people are currently displaced in Somalia, the NGOs expect the situation to deteriorate further. The NGO group said the political process so far has had no impact on the ground in terms of reducing the level of violence and accused the international community of having completely failed Somali civilians. In an interview with the BBC, Human Rights Watch called Somalia “the most ignored tragedy in the world today”.

The political process took an important step forward when the two committees established under the Djibouti Agreement—the and the High Level Committee—met in Djibouti on 25-26 October. Two potentially significant accords were signed: The Joint Security Committee agreed that a ceasefire will become effective on 5 November and that Ethiopian troops will start relocating from strategic areas on 21 November. AMISOM, with the assistance of TFG and ARS forces, will take over responsibility for security in these areas “until deployment of a UN force”. In a separate joint declaration the Somali Deputy Prime Minister, Ahmed Abdi Salam Aden, and the ARS Chairman, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, called for the assistance of the international community and leadership of the UN for the early establishment of a Somali Unity Government which would be open to all Somali nationals and should address as a priority political cooperation and joint responsibility for assuring security.

The agreement reached in Djibouti was reportedly rejected by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, leader of a separate faction of ARS, who said it was an illusion since no final date was set for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops. It remains to be seen, therefore, whether the ceasefire is also an illusion. A series of near simultaneous suicide car bombings in Somaliland and Puntland on 29 October could be interpreted as an ominous sign. The bombings struck Ethiopia’s embassy in Hargeisa (capital of the breakaway region of Somaliland), the president’s office and a UNDP building, as well as an in intelligence headquarters in Bosasso, Puntland, killing at least 28 people. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Al-Shabaab was reported to be the main suspect.

On 28-29 October an extraordinary meeting of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in Eastern Africa (IGAD), attended by representatives of the Somali Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs), IGAD countries and partners as well as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, was convened in Nairobi to discuss Somalia. Several participants were highly critical of the Somali leadership and at the end of the meeting a declaration was adopted that contained strong language referring to the political paralysis in Somalia, complete failure to establish institutions of governance, and lack of unity and unhelpful competition among the leadership of the TFIs. It was also noted that the international community had failed in supporting AMISOM. Perhaps the most telling conclusion was that reported from the Ethiopian foreign minister, Seyoum Mesfin, saying that “Somalia’s problems are not security but political”. Furthermore, the declaration spelled out a clear timeline for the TFIs’ implementation of previous commitments and it was decided to establish a mechanism to monitor its implementation.

At press time, a new resolution on targeted sanctions, including travel ban and asset freeze, was expected to be adopted on 31 October. The provisions in the resolution would apply not only to violators of the arms embargo, but also to individuals who threaten the peace, security or stability of Somalia or impede the delivery of or access to humanitarian assistance in Somalia. However, the Council has stepped back from the tough decision of designating individuals and entities to be targeted by the new sanctions. This will be left to the Sanctions Committee. The Committee’s mandate would be expanded also in other areas such as monitoring and information gathering.

Key Issues
The most high profile issue facing the Council in November is the nature and mandate of a possible force for Somalia. Related questions are whether conditions exist for a UN-type peacekeeping operation (and the future of any ceasefire will be an important factor in this regard) or whether a more robust coalition of member states is needed. A second issue is whether any force should focus on protection of civilians rather than just supporting the TFG.

A related issue is that so far the Djibouti Agreement process has not embraced those responsible for the attacks on the AU force and has failed to translate into improvements on the ground. As a result it is unclear whether enough countries would be willing to contribute forces under current circumstances. A major test for the Somalis therefore is whether the TFG and the ARS will be able to bring the ceasefire agreed at the Joint Security Committee meeting in Djibouti to an effective reality on the ground.

The humanitarian situation is another issue intensifying pressure for intervention. It remains to be seen whether the options presented in the Secretary-General’s report will address protection of civilians as a key aspect of a mandate. However, if the humanitarian situation deteriorates further the Council may see itself under pressure to intervene regardless of whether it has the proper means.

Finally, an issue which seems to be emerging is whether in the current circumstances, the Security Council alone is sufficient in the United Nations context, or whether there is a case for wider involvement of other UN bodies.

Options for the Council in November depend to a large extent on conclusions and recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report, as well as political developments, in particular whether the ceasefire agreement is real (or can be made real) or whether it is a political illusion.

The Council remains divided on whether to explore a multinational stabilisation force or a UN peacekeeping operation. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) believes that at this time a peacekeeping operation is not feasible. The Secretary-General has been active in investigating the alternative option of a multilateral coalition, asking for troops and trying to identify a lead nation. So far no country has come forward with a clear commitment. Ideally a robust multinational force would be followed by a peacekeeping force once security was established. However, if there are no volunteers for a multinational force the focus may then return to a peacekeeping operation. But it remains equally unclear whether any serious volunteer for such a lead role under that format can be expected either. In both cases it seems to be assumed that the current AMISOM forces would be subsumed in the new operation.

It will be interesting to see whether these dilemmas lead the Council to reconsider possible active involvement from the Military Staff Committee (perhaps in an expanded role as envisaged in article 47 (2) of the UN Charter).

Council action on the political process is another option especially in light of the apparent progress made in Djibouti at the end of October. The Council could decide to signal in a presidential statement that the issue of a ceasefire is of critical importance.

Council Dynamics
There seems to be general agreement in the Council that further initiatives on Somalia are needed, but there is division about what should or can be done. By contrast, there is a common understanding on the need for continued action on piracy.

Differences remain on how to respond to the request for an international stabilisation force in Somalia. Currently, the disagreement is not so much about a multinational versus a peacekeeping force, although that is an underlying issue. Instead, it centres on what is feasible given the current level of violence, what conditions must be met, and what the Somalis themselves must do in terms of real political reconciliation before they can expect outside assistance. The remarks attributed to Ethiopia at the IGAD meeting in Nairobi that the problem is political not a security one will only reinforce those arguing in favour of a political track.

As we wrote in our October Forecast, Council members including South Africa, the US and Italy are sceptical that suitable troops can be generated for a multinational force. In reality this argument seems to boil down to a funding issue and the belief that in the absence of assessed UN funding no such force will be viable. They argue that this means the only option is a peacekeeping mission. Some of them perceive DPKO’s risk assessment as too negative, in particular as it relates to the actual strength of the insurgents.

On the other hand, members like France, UK, Belgium and Russia take a more cautious approach, concerned about the strength of the insurgents and the added risks associated with any non-African intervention. They do not believe that a UN peacekeeping force can be robust enough to intervene effectively. They also point to the current deployment problems in Darfur and express doubts that any new force for Somalia would do any better in terms of force generation.

A common view is that there must be more political progress by the Somalis themselves and some consequential amelioration in the security situation. This aspect is leading to some lateral thought as to whether there are ways other UN bodies can help in this regard. In this context, the ceasefire agreement reached on 26 October is an important new development, but it remains to be seen whether it will actually have any effect on 5 November.

Finally, all Council members have in mind other upcoming demands for new UN troops (for example a possible UN military component to succeed EUFOR in Chad, see the relevant brief in this Forecast). This and the overall cost of existing UN operations may also influence the Council’s approach.

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UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1838 (7 October 2008) called for intensified action against piracy in Somalia.
  • S/RES/1831 (19 August 2008) renewed AMISOM for six months.
  • S/RES/1816 (2 June 2008) authorised action against piracy in Somalia.
  • S/RES/1814 (15 May 2008) reiterated the Council’s intention to strengthen the arms embargo.
  • S/RES/733 (23 January 1992) imposed an arms embargo.

Selected Presidential Statement

  • ·S/PRST/2008/33 (4 September 2008) requested detailed planning on an international stabilisation force and peacekeeping force.

Selected Report of the Secretary-General

  • S/2008/466 (16 July 2008) was the most recent report.

Latest Monitoring Group’s Report


  • S/PV.5942 (23 July 2008) was the most recent open Council briefing by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah (Mauritania)


  • Maximum authorised size: 44 international and 28 local civilians
  • Size as of 30 June 2008: 16 international and 11 local civilians
  • Cost: $16.2 million (2008 budget)
  • Duration: 15 April 1995 to present; mandate expires on 31 December 2009


  • Maximum authorised strength: 8,000 troops plus maritime and air components
  • Strength as of 12 October 2008: about 3,000 Ugandan and Burundian troops
  • Key resource contributors: US, EU, Italy, Sweden, China and the Arab League
  • Duration: February 2007 to present: AU mandate expires on 17 January 2009 and Council authorisation expires on 19 February 2009.

Useful Additional Resources

  • Piracy in Somalia: Threatening global trade, feeding local wars, Chatham House Briefing Paper by Roger Middleton, October 2008
  • Somalia: A Country in Peril, a Policy Nightmare, Enough Strategy Paper by Ken Menkhaus, September 2008

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