October 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2009
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AFRICA

Somalia

Expected Council Action

At press time the Council was expecting the Secretary-General’s report, due 30 September, on progress in implementing the three-phased approach towards the eventual deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation in Somalia (endorsed by the Council on 26 May in resolution 1872). The report will be discussed in October and a briefing is expected. It is unclear whether there will be any Council decisions.

Also in October, the Somalia Monitoring Group is scheduled to provide its midterm briefing to the Sanctions Committee. The Group’s mandate expires on 19 December.

Key Recent Developments
Violence in Somalia, especially in Mogadishu, appeared to reach unprecedented levels in recent months. According to the Somali Elman Peace and Human Rights Organisation, fighting in Mogadishu during Ramadan (21 August to 19 September) was some of the worst in twenty years. In just four days in September, 32 civilians were killed and 82 wounded. There were frequent reports of insurgent attacks with heavy civilian casualties.

On 14 September US Special Operations forces entered southern Somalia in a daytime helicopter raid and killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, believed to be one of the most senior Al-Qaida leaders in East Africa and one of many foreigners in Al-Shabaab’s insurgency against the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). It is alleged that Nabhan had masterminded the suicide attack against a hotel (which killed 15 people) and the simultaneous attempt to shoot down an Israeli airplane in Kenya in 2002. Six foreigners, including Nabhan, and three Al-Shabaab fighters were killed in the US operation. Al-Shabaab vowed to avenge the killings.

On 17 September 17 African peacekeepers, including the former deputy force commander, were killed in suicide bombings against the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). At least forty other people were injured. The bombings were carried out by Al-Shabaab fighters who drove two stolen UN vehicles loaded with explosives into AMISOM’s main base in Mogadishu.

The AU condemned the killings and said efforts to strengthen AMISOM would continue. The Secretary-General expressed outrage and the EU, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the League of Arab States, Norway and the US condemned the attacks in a joint statement. There was no formal reaction from the Council, but in informal remarks to the press the Council president said members strongly condemned the attacks.

The humanitarian situation continued to deteriorate even further. The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has increased from 3.2 million in January to 3.8 million, or almost half the Somali population. The total number of internally displaced persons is estimated at 1.55 million, and 83,000 people were reported to have been displaced only since 1 July. On 14 September, however, the World Food Programme announced that it would have to close 12 feeding centres for mothers and children in Somalia due to lack of funding.

In Somaliland, political protests on 12 September following another postponement of presidential elections originally scheduled for April 2008 turned violent. Three people were killed and ten others wounded by Somaliland police firing at protesters gathered in Hargeisa, the capital of the breakaway republic. There were concerns that the situation might spiral out of control and further destabilise Somalia.

Somaliland has enjoyed relative calm since it unilaterally declared independence in 1991. The AU expressed concern about the rising tensions, calling for calm. The UN announced that it is planning to open a new political affairs office in Hargeisa to offer its support, particularly in the areas of maritime security and counterterrorism.

The Contact Group on Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia held its fourth meeting on 10 September in New York under the chairmanship of Japan, with 45 countries participating. It issued a statement welcoming the significant reduction in the number of successful pirate attacks despite a rise in the overall number of attacks from 156 so far this year, compared with 111 during all of 2008. The group will meet again in January.

The International Contact Group on Somalia held a meeting on 23 September in New York, but no communiqué was issued.

Key Issues
A key issue remains the serious challenge posed to the TFG by insurgent groups and whether it will receive adequate international support to sustain itself. The UN has not been able to establish the “light footprint” in Mogadishu envisaged as the first step of the three-phased approach. Although the AU has stated that it remains committed to strengthening AMISOM in spite of the recent suicide attacks, the mission still only has 5,000 of the 8,000 authorised troops. On 18 September Al-Shabaab warned Djibouti, which has pledged 500 soldiers to AMISOM, not to send any troops.

A related issue is the increasing evidence of links between Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaida and its implications, in particular in terms of further radicalisation of the insurgency. There seems to be concerns that Al-Shabaab’s recent attack against AMISOM might signal an escalation of the conflict with increasing use of suicide bombers.

A further issue is the situation in Somaliland. Observers warn that if the current elections dispute is allowed to escalate, it could lead to a political and security crisis in one part of Somalia which has been relatively stable.

Another issue is the regional dimension of issues confronting Somalia and whether the Council is willing and able to formulate a sufficiently comprehensive response to both the crisis in Somalia and related regional issues involving Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

A major underlying issue is the suffering of the civilian population and the continuing deterioration in the humanitarian situation. According to some estimates, 18,000 civilians have been killed since 2007.

Options
One option for the Council is to maintain the strategy of the three-phased approach endorsed in May.

Another option is to seek some kind of game changing action by beginning to address some of the regional issues also affecting Somalia, in particular Eritrea’s role in the region, as has been called for by IGAD and the AU.

A third option is to expedite work in the Somalia Sanctions Committee to establish the list of individuals and entities subject to targeted sanctions.

Council Dynamics
Most Council members seem to believe that options for Somalia are limited and that the current strategy should be maintained. In spite of recent developments Somalia does not seem to have received much attention in the Council. Certainly in September, with most members busy preparing for high-level visits for the General Assembly’s opening debate, energy has focused on initiatives in other fora. The Secretary-General’s report may help to formulate more detailed views on the way forward.

There have apparently been preliminary discussions on possible Council action to sanction Eritrea both for its role in Somalia and its failure to comply with Council demands in its border dispute with Djibouti. This is mainly an African initiative based on the request to the Council in May from IGAD and the AU to impose sanctions on Eritrea (see also our June 2009 Forecast). But it is unclear whether African members of the Council are in agreement on the issue, and other members seem to prefer that any initiative to coerce Eritrea must have undivided African support.

In the Sanctions Committee there has been no further progress on establishing a list of names for targeted sanctions. Council members are now considering the names put forward so far by the Monitoring Group (which includes some Eritrean nationals). They expect to receive some additional names at the mid-term briefing in October. Some Council members would like to have a list in place before the one-year anniversary of the adoption of the targeted sanctions resolution on 20 November.

The UK is the lead country on Somalia in the Council.

Selected UN Documents

Selected Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1872 (26 May 2009) renewed authorisation of AMISOM until 31 January 2010, approved its funding from assessed UN contributions and requested the Secretary-General to implement the phased approach recommended in his 16 April report.
  • S/RES/1853 (19 December 2008) renewed the mandate of the Monitoring Group tasked with monitoring the sanctions regime for Somalia for 12 months.
  • S/RES/1844 (20 November 2008) imposed targeted sanctions.

Selected Secretary-General’s Report

Selected Meeting Records

  • S/PV.6173 (29 July 2009) was a briefing by Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah.
  • S/PV.6158 (9 July 2009) was an open debate on Somalia with briefings by Political Affairs (B. Lynn Pascoe) and the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support (Susana Malcorra).

Selected Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2009/19 (9 July 2009) reiterated the Council’s support for the Djibouti Peace Process and the TFG and expressed concern at foreign support of insurgents.

Other

  • S/2009/461 (15 September 2009) was a letter from the AU transmitting to the Council a declaration adopted at the AU Special Session on the Consideration and resolution of Conflicts in Africa held in Tripoli on 30 and 31 August.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah (Mauritania)

Chairman of the Somalia Sanctions Committee

Claude Heller (Mexico)

AMISOM

  • Maximum authorised strength: 8,000 troops plus maritime and air components
  • Strength as of September 2009: about 5,000 Ugandan and Burundian troops.
  • Duration: February 2007 to present: AU mandate expires on 17 January 2010 and Council authorisation expires on 31 January 2010.

Useful Additional Resources

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