Expected Council Action
The Secretary-General is due to report by 15 April on a possible UN peacekeeping deployment to Somalia as requested by resolution 1863. The Council has signaled that it wants to decide by 1 June whether to authorise such a deployment to replace the AU Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). Substantive negotiations on the Secretary-General’s recommendations are also likely to be influenced by developments on the ground and are unlikely to start until May, but a briefing in April is a possibility.
Key Recent Developments
Following two days of intense fighting that reportedly killed more than fifty people in Mogadishu, the Council issued a press statement on 25 February calling on all Somalis to reject violence. It also condemned the 22 February attack on AMISOM, which killed 11 Burundian peacekeepers.
On 26-27 February the new Somali foreign minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Omaar, attended a meeting in Brussels of the International Contact Group on Somalia chaired by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. On 26 February Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the new Somali prime minister, arrived in Mogadishu for the first time since his appointment on 13 February. On 12 March the Somali parliament held its first meeting in Mogadishu after relocating from Djibouti with 298 parliamentarians reportedly in attendance.
On 10 March the Somali cabinet unanimously decided to implement Islamic law. The decision was seen as an attempt to limit the influence of the insurgents. However, the Islamist insurgent group Al-Shabaab seems to have rejected it as hypocritical. The leader of a recently formed insurgent group Hisbi Islam, Omar Iman, said in a statement on 8 March that his group did not recognise the new government and would continue attacks against AMISOM. On 19 March an audio recording published on the internet claiming to be from Usama bin Laden attacked the new president, accusing him of cooperating with the infidels. Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, leader of the Eritrea-based faction of the Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS), reportedly distanced himself from the Al-Qaida message, saying that Somalis themselves must decide on their future.
President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed on 8 March embarked on a round of official visits to countries in the region. He first went to Kenya and then visited Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda. In an interview in Nairobi he said that peace talks mediated by clan elders were progressing and that he hoped soon to meet directly with Al-Shabaab and other opponents. He dismissed last month’s call from clan elders and clerics for AMISOM to leave. In Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza promised that his country would contribute additional troops to AMISOM, but said requirements were still being discussed with the UN and AU.
On 11 March the AU Peace and Security Council extended AMISOM’s mandate for three months from 17 March. There were renewed calls from clan elders in Mogadishu as well as some parliamentarians for AMISOM to leave within 120 days from 1 March.
The Secretary-General’s 9 March report welcomed President Ahmed’s willingness to reach out to groups opposed to the Djibouti process and called on donors to provide resources to help bring stability to Somalia. It expressed deep concern about the human rights situation and welcomed agreement under the Djibouti process on a working group to discuss establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate violations.
The report also included an update on support to AMISOM and Somali security institutions, as well as contingency planning for possible deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation. It concluded that “there remains uncertainty about whether peacekeeping is the right tool to back the political process in Somalia”. Several key conditions must be met for a peacekeeping operation to be effective, including formation of a government inclusive of elements currently outside the Djibouti process, operation of joint security forces in Mogadishu, implementation of a credible ceasefire, consent to the deployment by all major parties and adequate pledges of troops and military capacities.
On 16 March the Secretary-General reported on piracy, noting that the issue could be resolved only through an integrated approach addressing the situation on land in Somalia. He recommended effective implementation and possibly strengthening of existing legal frameworks, including targeted sanctions against key pirate leaders, as well as capacity building assistance to states in the region. The report recommended the UN’s role should not be expanded beyond the current information coordination and liaison role.
In a meeting on 20 March the Council was briefed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia Ould-Abdallah, who said Somalia was “back from the brink” and outlined six immediate priorities: supporting the government, strengthening AMISOM, providing humanitarian assistance, implementing targeted sanctions, fighting impunity and consolidating antipiracy efforts. Somali Foreign Minister Omaar also spoke, striking a positive note, and said there were no more warlords or political factions holding the country hostage. The government’s first actions, he said, included relocating government institutions to Mogadishu, establishing joint security forces, mobilising support for the peace process, reestablishing authority in the economic sector and dialogue with regional parties and neighbouring countries. Going forward, the government’s main priorities would be security stabilisation, which would require strengthening of AMISOM and Somali security forces, government capacity building, humanitarian assistance and counter-piracy measures. A UN peacekeeping operation would be welcomed, Omaar said, while many of the conditions outlined by the Secretary-General had already been met.
The EU announced it was ready to provide naval protection for deliveries to AMISOM in response to a request from the Secretary-General.
After the meeting the Council issued a press statement welcoming positive political developments, calling on all Somalis to join the peace process and condemning the 18 March attacks on AMISOM that killed one Ugandan peacekeeper.
A key issue is ensuring implementation of and providing adequate support for the current UN strategy for Somalia. This strategy includes support for AMISOM and Somali security institutions and support for the government and the political process as well as activities of the UN country team. A key objective is to ensure that AMISOM and Somali institutions have the capacity to provide security for the Djibouti peace process and for the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) to relocate to Mogadishu and also allow humanitarians to operate.
Some key elements of the strategy are still not in place. The General Assembly is expected to approve the first part of the UN funding (approximately $81 million) for AMISOM by the end of March but it will take more time before the full support package is deployed. The level of bilateral support is still unclear as the donors’ conference has yet to take place. It is now planned for 22 April in Brussels. The strategy also depends on African countries’ willingness to contribute troops to AMISOM.
The longer term issue is whether to pursue a UN peacekeeping operation. The Secretary-General’s 9 March report signaled that he was not convinced that UN peacekeeping would be “the right tool”. It remains to be seen whether developments will affect his conclusions in the April report.
A related issue is that mid April will be too early to see results from reconciliation talks and the support package for AMISOM and Somali security forces will barely have been approved, let alone deployed.
A third issue is that it is still far from clear whether Somalis themselves really want international forces in their country. A closely related issue is whether AU would be willing to extend AMISOM’s mandate beyond June.
In addition to assessing whether conditions in Somalia are ripe for UN peacekeeping, the Secretary-General is expected to report in April on other options to enhance security.
The Council is not expected to take any action in April. One possible option is a briefing by the Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, once the Secretary-General’s report is available.
Council members appear cautiously optimistic about political developments but are still very concerned about the underlying security and humanitarian situation, including violations of international humanitarian law. There is also a focus by some on the problem of impunity. Members seem agreed that a comprehensive approach is needed to support the new government, as outlined by Ould-Abdallah in his briefing, but differences on the details remain substantial.
Members are not staking out positions in advance on the question of a UN peacekeeping force. There is a strong preference to see the Secretary-General’s April report and to closely watch developments in Somalia. US policy is still under review, but it is now widely expected that the US will be less focused on military solutions driven by counterterrorism agendas. African members still, overall, seem supportive of the AU position on a UN force replacing the AMISOM contingent. But they are less vocal than in 2008 when South Africa championed this solution.
Most members seem to want to see more political progress and improvement in the security situation and appear skeptical that the benchmarks set out in the Secretary-General’s latest report will be met by the Council’s self-imposed 1 June deadline. African members, however, are keen that the benchmarks not be interpreted too strictly nor be used as an excuse to not establish a peacekeeping operation. A majority seem to be looking for real progress on the ground with the AMISOM support package before considering transition to a UN operation.
Selected Security Council Resolutions
Selected Presidential Statement
Selected Secretary-General’s Reports
Latest Monitoring Group’s Report
Special Representative of the Secretary-General
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah (Mauritania)
Chairman of the Somalia Sanctions Committee
Claude Heller (Mexico)