March 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2014
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Expected Council Action

In March, the Council will be briefed on the Secretary-General’s report on the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) by Special Representative of the Secretary-General Nicholas Kay. The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission for Somalia, Mahamet Saleh Annadif, is also expected to brief the Council. The briefing is likely to be followed by consultations. Council members are also scheduled to be briefed in consultations by Ambassador Oh Joon (South Korea), chair of the 751/1907 Somalia-Eritrea Sanctions Committee. Council members may also hold an informal interactive dialogue regarding the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

The modification of the arms embargo on Somalia authorised in resolution 2093 on 6 March 2013, which removed most restrictions on the importation of small arms for the intended use of the Somali National Security Forces (SNSF), is due to expire on 6 March. The Council may take action to renew these provisions in some form.

Key Recent Developments

Chronic insecurity continues to be prevalent throughout Somalia, including in the capital, Mogadishu. On 1 January, Al-Shabaab exploded two car bombs outside the Jazeera Hotel in Mogadishu, killing at least 10 people. On 13 February, an Al-Shabaab car bomb apparently targeting a UN convoy exploded near the airport in Mogadishu, killing at least seven people (none of the casualties were UN staff). More recently, on 21 February Al-Shabaab launched a terrorist attack on Villa Somalia, the presidential palace, in which two senior government officials, one SNSF soldier and nine attackers were killed. The Council issued press statements condemning each of these terrorist attacks (SC/11240, SC/11277 and SC/11291).

Meanwhile, Kenya and the US have launched air strikes targeting Al-Shabaab. In the first major aerial bombing undertaken by Kenya since October, fighter jets attacked a camp in the Gedo region on 9 January killing more than 30 insurgents and commanders, according to the Kenyan Defence Forces. On 26 January, a US missile strike hit a moving vehicle outside the coastal town of Barawe, apparently killing a senior Al-Shabaab intelligence official, Ahmed Mohamed Amey. Media reports suggest he had close ties to Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, advising on kidnapping and suicide bombings.

On 22 January, AMISOM’s troop deployment increased with the formal incorporation of 4,395 troops from the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF). The ENDF contingents are anticipated to operate in the Bakool, Bay and Gedo regions. Their addition brings AMISOM’s total force strength close to the 22,126 troop ceiling authorised by the Council in resolution 2124 on 12 November 2013. However, as the ENDF were already conducting counter-insurgency operations within Somalia, their incorporation into AMISOM is effectively a re-hatting and does not seem to be a net increase in the troops available to fight Al-Shabaab.

According to the confidential mid-term report of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG), which was leaked to Reuters, there has been “high-level and systematic abuses in weapons and ammunition management and distribution” by the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) since resolution 2093 modified the arms embargo. The report also states that weapons distribution “along clan lines for the prosecution of clan warfare” has impeded counter-insurgency efforts against Al-Shabaab. The SEMG recommends either reinstating a comprehensive arms embargo or tightening the monitoring and reporting requirements for arms imports by the FGS. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has stated that Somalia intends to lobby the Council to maintain the partial lifting of the arms embargo. Referencing the FGS report on small arms that was due 6 February, Somalia has also written to the chair of the sanctions committee refuting charges made in the SEMG report.

The humanitarian consequences of protracted fighting in Somalia are quite severe. Speaking at a press briefing on 19 February after a three-day trip to Somalia, John Ging, operations director for the UN Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said two million people are coping with food insecurity in the country. Forced migration also continues to be an acute problem. According to OCHA data, more than one million people are internally displaced, and there are more than one million Somali refugees in nearby countries. Ging also noted that merely 4 percent of the $933 million in the 2014 appeal had been met thus far by donors.

Politically, Somalia has been unstable over the last several months. Donors have expressed concern regarding the resignation of the central bank governor, Yusur Abrar, in November. After only seven weeks on the job, she cited widespread corruption in the FGS as her rationale for quitting and fled the country. There was also a contentious power struggle between President Mohamud and Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon Saaid. This came to a conclusion on 2 December, when Shirdon lost a vote of confidence in Parliament and was removed from office (the vote was 184 against and 64 in favour). The new prime minister, Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, did not assume office until 26 December and the new cabinet was appointed only on 16 January, seven days after the 40-day constitutional limit.

Meanwhile, on 8 January, Abdiweli Ali Gas was elected as the new president of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. Gas beat the incumbent, Abdirahman Farole, by a vote of 33 to 32 among members of parliament (MPs). (Puntland has indirect presidential elections in which clan elders representing a specific distribution of sub-clans first select the MPs and then the MPs elect the president). As Farole had cut off ties with the FGS in August, the election of Gas may bode well for future relations between Puntland and the FGS.

In a series of events that may be indicative of the current limits of state power in Somalia, the largest national provider of mobile internet service, Hormuud Telecom, shut down all mobile internet service on 6 February. In January, apparently out of concern about various forms of Western surveillance technology being used for counter-insurgency purposes, Al-Shabaab had declared a ban on all mobile internet services in Somalia. Hormuud Telecom, citing security concerns after having been subject to specific threats from Al-Shabaab, complied with the ban, including within government-held territory such as Mogadishu.

The Council last addressed Somalia on 10 December 2013 in a briefing, via videoconference from Mogadishu by Kay, on the Secretary-General’s quarterly report on UNSOM (S/2013/709), issued 2 December (S/PV.7078). While acknowledging the immediate political and security challenges facing Somalia, Kay emphasised that state-building is a long-term process requiring continued engagement by the international community.

Human Rights-Related Developments

Following the appointment of Prime Minister Ahmed, Shamsul Bari, the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, urged the FSG on 26 December to finalise and implement a human rights roadmap that had been endorsed by the government in August.

During the 24th session of the Human Rights Council last September, Bari participated in a high-level dialogue to discuss how to maximise the effectiveness of assistance as well as ensuring implementation of the roadmap. A summary of the key conclusions of this dialogue was released on 8 January (A/HRC/25/45). It includes two recommendations for the UN: ensuring that monitoring and reporting by the human rights component of UNSOM is prioritised and establishing a commission of inquiry to document serious crimes committed in Somalia.

Key Issues

In March, the most immediate issue for the Council’s consideration is the modified arms embargo, whose partial suspension is due to expire on 6 March.

More broadly, the Council will likely be focused on assessing UNSOM and AMISOM, particularly regarding what impact changes to the mandate of the latter (i.e., an increase in the troop ceiling and further mechanisms for financial support) that were authorised on 12 November might have on the effectiveness of the former.


One option is for the Council to renew the provisions that modified the arms embargo prior to their expiration on 6 March, thus enabling the uninterrupted importation of small arms by the FGS as delineated in resolution 2093.

Another option is for the Council to renew modification of the arms embargo while also including substantial additional language imposing tighter monitoring, reporting and regulatory requirements on the FGS for importing small arms.

A third option is to take no action prior to 6 March, in which case the provisions of resolution 2093 related to modification of the arms embargo would expire and the prior (i.e., more comprehensive) arms embargo would be reinstated.

Council and Wider Dynamics

There is likely to be backing for renewal of modification of the arms embargo among key allies of the FGS within the Council, particularly the US and the UK, although the mid-term report of the SEMG does raise difficult and important issues regarding corruption and the ability of the FGS to regulate small arms transfers. Certain Council members which had privately expressed reservations regarding resolution 2093 (although it passed unanimously) may raise these points once again. The most likely outcome would seem to be renewing modification of the arms embargo, but with stronger monitoring and reporting provisions. However, given the poor implementation of sanctions regulations thus far by the FGS, it is reasonable to question whether the FGS is willing and able to improve compliance in the future.

In terms of the evolving relations among the FGS, AU and the UN, developments over the last few months have been mixed at best. Resolution 2124, with an increase in the AMISOM troop ceiling and related provisions for military hardware and better financing, undoubtedly improved relations between the Council and the AU Peace and Security Council with respect to policymaking on Somalia. However, interaction between the FGS and the AU has been characterised by complicated dynamics, particularly with key troop contributors to AMISOM such as Ethiopia and Kenya, whose own national interests can also conflict with Somalia’s (e.g. power struggles over the port city of Kismayo and past disputes between SNSF and ENDF). Likewise, relations between the FGS and the international community have deteriorated, with longstanding concerns regarding corruption and the governance capacity of the FGS resurfacing. The optimism characterising backers of the FGS as recently as the EU donor conference last September seems to have dissipated.

The UK is the penholder on Somalia, the US is the penholder on piracy and the Republic of Korea is the chair of the 751/1907 Somalia-Eritrea Sanctions Committee.

UN Documents on Somalia

Security Council Resolutions
12 November 2013 S/RES/2124 This resolution increased the troop ceiling of AMISOM from 17,731 to 22,126.
6 March 2013 S/RES/2093 This resolution authorised AMISOM deployment until 28 February 2014 and partially lifted the arms embargo on Somalia.
Security Council Letters
13 February 2014 S/2014/100 This letter transmitted a progress report on AMISOM’s implementation of its mandate.
20 December 2013 S/2013/764 This letter updated the Council regarding the Secretary-General’s plans to deploy a static UN guard unit.
Sanctions Committee Document
31 December 2013 S/2013/791 This was the report of the 751/1907 Security Council Committee containing an account of the Committee’s activities during the period from 1 January to 31 December 2013.
Security Council Meeting Records
10 December 2013 S/PV.7078 This was a briefing on UNSOM.
12 November 2013 S/PV.7056 This meeting concerned modification of AMISOM’s authorisation.
Security Council Letters
21 February 2014 SC/11291 This press statement condemned the terrorist attack by Al-Shabaab on the Office of the President of the FGS.
13 February 2014 SC/11277 This press statement condemned the terrorist attack by Al-Shabaab on a UN convoy in Mogadishu.
2 January 2014 SC/11240 In this press statement, the Council condemned the terrorist attacks on 1 January in Mogadishu by Al-Shabaab.
Secretary-General’s Report
2 December 2013 S/2013/709 This was the Secretary-General’s UNSOM report.

Other Relevant Facts

Size and Composition of AMISOM: 22,056 uniformed personnel deployed across four sectors, comprising troops from Burundi (5,338), Djibouti (1,000), Ethiopia (4,395), Kenya (3,664), Sierra Leone (850) and Uganda (6,220), plus 75 headquarters staff officers and 514 police.

Useful Additional Resources

No Place Like Home: Returns and Relocations of Somalia’s Displaced, Amnesty International, February 2014.

Matt Bryden, The Reinvention of Al-Shabaab: A Strategy of Choice or Necessity?, Center for Strategic and International Studies, February 2014.