March 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 26 February 2009
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Expected Council Action
In March, the Council will receive a report from the Secretary-General. Also in March, the General Assembly is expected to take up the funding of the UN logistical-support package to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) endorsed by the Council on 16 January by resolution 1863. A report on piracy off the coast of Somalia is also expected, including advice on a possible UNvcoordination and leadership role as requested on 2 December by resolution 1846. A briefing by Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, is likely. It is unclear whether there will be any Council action.

Key Recent Developments
On 30 January Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was elected president of Somalia by the newly expanded parliament which now includes 150 new opposition members from the Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS). Seventy-five parliamentary seats are being kept vacant and will be allocated to representatives of civil society and opposition groups that have not yet joined the peace process. Ahmed won in the second round of voting after Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, the other leading candidate, withdrew. The Council welcomed the election of Ahmed in a press statement on 3 February.

Ahmed travelled directly to the AU summit taking place in Addis Ababa and also attended a meeting of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. On 7 February he arrived in Mogadishu to meet senior security officials from the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and representatives from ARS and the next day appointed a commission to oversee the integration of TFG and ARS security forces. He also met clan elders and Islamic Courts Union representatives and reportedly discussed the need to open talks with insurgent groups that have so far refused to join the peace process.

On 13 February Ahmed appointed Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke as the new prime minister. Sharmarke, the son of a former Somali president, belongs to the Darod clan. Ahmed is from the Hawiye clan, thus rectifying clan imbalance which had bedeviled the national leadership previously. His nomination was approved by a large parliamentary majority. Shortly after taking office, Sharmarke reportedly said he wanted to hold talks with Al-Shabaab. On 20 February he announced his new cabinet, naming 36 ministers.

The security situation remained volatile. On 4 February four insurgent groups, including the Eritrea-based faction of ARS but not Al-Shabaab, announced plans to merge into a new group called Hisbi Islam (Islamic party) to fight the newly elected president and the anticipated unity government. There were reports of new clashes in the central region of Somalia between Al-Shabaab and Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca, a moderate Sunni group supporting the government. There were also reports that Ethiopian troops reentered Somalia on 18 February.

In Mogadishu, insurgent attacks against AMISOM continued. Eleven Burundian peacekeepers were killed in an attack on 22 February for which Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility. On 19 February more than 300 clerics and clan elders gathered in Mogadishu and reportedly called for AMISOM to leave within 120 days.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees announced that for the first time in two years, internally displaced persons had started returning to certain parts of the city. Still, civilians were reportedly fleeing other parts to escape fighting. On 4 February the director of Horn Afrik radio, Said Tahlil Ahmed, was killed in the Bakara market in Mogadishu by unidentified militias. He was the second Somali journalist killed this year.

On 30 January the Secretary-General reported that it would take time before the UN support package approved by the Council could be delivered. The required budgetary approval by the General Assembly was scheduled for March. The report stressed the immediate need for strong bilateral assistance, both through contributions to the trust fund that will be set up in accordance with resolution 1863, as well as through contributions of personnel, equipment and other resources.

On 12 February the Council was briefed in closed consultations by B. Lynn Pascoe, Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, and Susana Malcorra, Under Secretary-General for the Department of Field Support. Malcorra did not provide an estimate of the overall cost of the AMISOM support package, noting that it was still in the process of being finalised.

Anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia gathered increasing support. Japan announced on 28 January that it had ordered its navy to prepare for possible deployment to join international forces already in place. There appeared to be a reduction in piracy activity. The International Maritime Organization convened a regional meeting in Djibouti that adopted a new code of conduct on anti-piracy cooperation on 29 January, including provisions on information sharing and arrest and investigation and prosecution of persons suspected of piracy. It is similar to an Asian regional arrangement of 2006.

Developments in the Sanctions Committee
The Somalia Sanctions Committee did not hold any meetings in February but is expected to meet in March. It has yet to agree on the list of individuals and entities to be targeted by the expanded sanctions regime adopted by the Council in resolution 1844 of 20 November. The resolution encouraged member states to submit proposals to the Committee for inclusion on the targeted sanctions list. In addition to discussing the sanctions list, the Committee is expected to revise its guidelines. At press time the Secretary-General had yet to reestablish the Monitoring Group.

Key Issues
Sustaining political progress seems to be the immediate key issue. Implementing the UN support package for AMISOM is also a pressing issue. However, the Council role is limited now that the ball is in the General Assembly’s court. In the meantime, encouraging further political progress may finally lead to results on the ground and reduce the need for outside forces.

Piracy remains a problem, but the issue has shifted from the need for stronger measures to implementing resolutions in place. Discussions are likely to be shaped by the upcoming report from the Secretary-General, including on the issue of a possible UN coordinating role. There are already several competing coordination mechanisms in place, including the US-led International Contact Group and the EU’s Maritime Security Centre. While the UN is unlikely to take on any ambitious role in the region, the question is whether some type of secretariat function to coordinate existing mechanisms might add value. Longer-term maritime security is clearly linked to a functioning government and the rule of law.

Options for the Council include:

  • welcoming the establishment of a unity government and providing much more precise steering for the Special Representative’s role, including clearer direction on political reconciliation;
  • taking up the Secretary-General’s piracy report with a view to determining how the UN can add further value;
  • proposing names in the Somalia Sanctions Committee of individuals and entities to be targeted by sanctions; and
  • implementing the recommendations of the Somalia Monitoring Group.

Council Dynamics
African Council members seem concerned about the lead time for deployment of the AMISOM support package. They are mindful that the UN budget is the prerogative of the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee, but there are also concerns that bilateral support is not proving adequate. Monitoring progress is therefore seen as important. Other Council members are concerned about cost and ensuring that standard oversight procedures apply. In March, another briefing on the support package is therefore likely. Several members—including the US, UK, France and Russia—seem hesitant about any significant UN coordinating role on piracy and the Secretariat seems reluctant to take on any major new tasks.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1863 (16 January 2009) renewed authorisation of AMISOM for up to six months, approved using UN resources to strengthen AMISOM and expressed the Council’s intention to establish a UN peacekeeping operation by 1 June 2009.
  • S/RES/1853 (19 December 2008) renewed the mandate of the Monitoring Group for 12 months.
  • S/RES/1851 (16 December 2008) expanded the anti-piracy authorisation to include action on land in Somalia and called for enhanced coordination.
  • S/RES/1846 (2 December 2008) renewed authorisation of action against piracy in Somalia for 12 months.
  • S/RES/1844 (20 November 2008) imposed targeted sanctions.
  • S/RES/1838 (7 October 2008) called for intensified action against piracy in Somalia.

Selected Presidential Statement

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

Selected Reports of the Secretary-General

  • S/2009/60 (30 January 2009) was the report requested by resolution 1863 on equipment and services to be provided to AMISOM.
  • S/2008/709 (17 November 2008) was the most recent regular report.

Latest Monitoring Group’s Report


  • S/2009/80 (4 February 2009) was a letter from the US informing the Council about the first meeting of the Contact Group on piracy off the Coast of Somalia.
  • SC/9588 (3 February 2009) was a press statement welcoming the election of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as the new president of Somalia.
  • S/2008/804 (19 December 2008) was the letter from the Secretary-General outlining additional proposals to address security challenges in Somalia.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah (Mauritania)

UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS)

  • Maximum authorised size: 44 international and 28 local civilians
  • Cost: $6.4 million (budget for the period 1 January to 30 June 2009)
  • Duration: 15 April 1995 to present; mandate expires on 31 December 2009

Chairman of the Somalia Sanctions Committee

Claude Heller (Mexico)


  • Maximum authorised strength: 8,000 troops plus maritime and air components.
  • Strength as of January 2009: about 3,450 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 16 March 2009 and Council authorisation expires on 16 July 2009.

Full forecast


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