Expected Council Action
In June, Council members will have a heightened appreciation of the issues in Somalia following their meetings in Nairobi on 25 May with Somali leaders. A report from the Secretary-General is expected on the proposal to establish a specialised court system to prosecute Somali pirates. (This arose from the January 2011 report by Jack Lang, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, which recommended the establishment of an extraterritorial Somali court and specialised courts in Puntland and Somaliland.) A briefing on the report is expected.
The Council is also focused on “post-transitional arrangements” for Somalia given that the transitional period ends on 20 August. A meeting among key Somali stakeholders scheduled for 11 to 16 June in Mogadishu could lead to a Council response. It is possible that following the meeting the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Augustine Mahiga will brief Council members.
Key Recent Developments
In May, the Council considered the Secretary-General’s latest regular report on Somalia. In a briefing on 11 May, Mahiga focused in particular on efforts to forge an agreement among key stakeholders on post-transitional arrangements and said disagreement over whether to hold elections in July for the positions of president and speaker of parliament was a main obstacle.
Also briefing the Council, Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed highlighted improvements in the security situation and progress made in delivering basic services to the population. With regard to elections, he said the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) did not believe the current parliament had the constitutional mandate to elect a new president. Only a parliament legally elected after the end of the transitional period would have the mandate to do so.
In a presidential statement, the Council regretted the TFG’s failure to attend the consultative meeting convened by Mahiga in Nairobi on 12 and 13 April and called on it to participate constructively in the consultative process. It urged the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) to reach agreement as soon as possible on the holding of elections “without which there can be no extension” of the TFIs’ mandates.
This message was reiterated on 25 May, when Council members met with TFI representatives, including the president, the prime minister and the speaker of parliament during a two-day visit to Nairobi as part of the Council mission to Africa. The Nairobi visit included meetings with regional leaders, UN officials and civil society as well. At a press conference, the UK ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said Council members had sent a very strong message to Somali leaders and told them that the international community’s support could not be assured if the infighting continued.
Somalia was also discussed at the annual consultative meeting between the Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa on 21 May, focusing in particular on transitional issues as well as the role of the AU Mission for Somalia (AMISOM). The issue of funding for AMISOM continues to be a key AU concern. It appears that the AU side reiterated its request for contingent-owned equipment to be reimbursed and also wanted a clearer commitment from the Council on the deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation to take over from AMISOM. However, these concerns were not reflected in the final meeting communiqué which instead stressed the importance of reliable resources for AMISOM and called on the international community “to make contributions urgently to AMISOM, without caveats.”
In April, the International Maritime Bureau reported that there had been a steep rise in piracy off the coast of Somalia in the first three months of the year. The high level of piracy activity seemed to continue in May with several new attacks being reported every week. Somali pirates are currently holding 26 ships and 518 hostages. A May report on the economics of piracy by Geopolicity, an international management consultancy group, estimated the total cost of Somali piracy in 2010 at $4.9 billion to $8.3 billion and predicted that the annual cost could rise to between $13 billion to $15 billion based on current trends.
Developments in the Sanctions Committee
As piracy attacks seem to continue unabated in spite of action taken so far, a key issue for the Council in June is whether the establishment of specialised piracy courts would be the right response or whether other measures would be more effective. A related issue is whether the situation has reached some kind of tipping point. (Lang warned against this in his report, stressing the need to act with “extreme urgency.”)
The other key issue is whether Somali leaders will heed the strong warnings from the Council about the transitional process. A related issue is what role the Council should continue to play in bringing about an agreement as time is quickly running out.
- continuing to defer a decision on Lang’s recommendation;
- overcoming political and financial hesitations and moving quickly to adopt a resolution for the establishment of a specialised court system to prosecute pirates;
- adopting a statement reinforcing the consistent messages on the transitional process following the consultative meeting in Mogadishu in June; or
- moving in the Sanctions Committee to apply targeted sanctions against those involved in piracy off the coast of Somalia. (In April 2010, the UK objected to the listing of two pirate leaders by putting a hold on their names. This has yet to be lifted and numerous others could also be considered.)
When the Council first considered Lang’s recommendations back in January, members were divided over his proposal to establish a specialised court system. France, Russia and a majority of elected members supported it. However, the UK and the US were less enthusiastic and argued that more information was needed on practical implementation issues. The request for another report from the Secretary-General was therefore a compromise between these two opposing positions. Whether the UK and the US will be inclined to support any further decisions at this stage is likely to depend on the findings of the report. It seems unlikely, however, that the Council would be ready to take action in June given that the report is not due until 11 June and some complex legal and financial issues will have to be considered.
The UK is the lead country on Somalia, but Russia has taken the lead on legal issues related to piracy and drafted resolution 1976 in close coordination with France.
Security Council Resolutions
- The Economics of Piracy—Pirate Ransoms & Livelihoods off the Coast of Somalia, Geopolicity, May 2011.