February 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 January 2015
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AFRICA

Somalia

Expected Council Action

In February, the Council will receive a briefing on the Secretary-General’s most recent 120-day report on the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and other recent redevelopments. The briefing will be followed by consultations. 

Ambassador Rafael Ramírez (Venezuela), chair of the 751/1907 Somalia-Eritrea Sanctions Committee, is expected to give a 120-day briefing in consultations. The Council is also expected to receive by 27 February a proposal from the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group and the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) regarding a potential exemption to the arms embargo for commercial vessels in Somali ports, which was requested in resolution 2182.  

Key Recent Developments

Al-Shabaab has continued to engage in terrorist attacks in urban areas. On 25 December 2014, the group attacked the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Halane Base Camp near Mogadishu, resulting in the death of three AMISOM soldiers and a civilian contractor. The Council issued a press statement strongly condemning the attack. On 22 January, the day before the president of Turkey was due to arrive, an Al-Shabaab suicide car bomber attacked a hotel in Mogadishu where the Turkish diplomatic delegation was staying. Two policemen and a hotel employee were killed in the blast, but no members of the Turkish delegation were injured.

The on-going joint military offensive by the Somali National Army and AMISOM forces has forced Al-Shabaab from its strongholds in south-central Somalia toward Kenya in the south and the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in the north.  Maman Sidikou, AU Special Representative for Somalia and head of AMISOM, commented on 7 January, “When they were hit by AMISOM, the tail went down to the Jubba valley and the head toward Puntland.” On 11 January, a remote-controlled bomb hit an AMISOM convoy in the southern port city of Kismayo, killing three soldiers; Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the blast. Conflict has also recently flared up between Al-Shabaab and Puntland security forces in the Galgala hills region 50 kilometres southwest of the northern port city of Bosaso. According to the Puntland authorities, twenty Al-Shabaab fighters and five government troops were killed in clashes during the first week of January.                

The FGS and the US have continued to target Al-Shabaab through a “carrot and stick” approach: encouraging the defection of leaders and rank-and-file members through a FGS amnesty program announced 3 September 2014, and targeting Al-Shabaab leaders with US drone strikes and bounties for their capture. On 27 December 2014, Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi, thought to have once been the head of the Amniyat (Al-Shabaab’s intelligence wing, responsible for assassinations, internal security and suicide bombing), surrendered to the FGS. The US had offered a $3 million bounty for Hersi in June 2012. On 29 December 2014, a US drone strike killed Tahliil Abdishakur, who the US Department of Defense stated was the current head of the Amniyat, and two other Al-Shabaab members.          

In what could be interpreted as a regional show of support for the FGS, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Council of Ministers held its 53rd session in Mogadishu on 10 January. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud noted the significance of the meeting, as the IGAD foreign ministers had not held a meeting in Mogadishu since the collapse of the Somali state more than two decades ago. The IGAD Council issued a communiqué addressing the political situation, particularly the state formation process, adoption of a constitution and elections as envisioned in the federal government’s Vision 2016 plan. The communiqué also recommended that the next IGAD summit (at the level of head of state) be held in Mogadishu during 2015.   

The political crisis that resulted in the removal of Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed by a parliamentary vote of no confidence on 6 December 2014 and the confirmation of his successor, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, on 24 December 2014, has not yet been resolved. Despite strong support in parliament for his appointment—218 out of 224 members present were in favour—Sharmarke has had difficulty forming a cabinet. Less than a week after the cabinet was selected, the prime minister dissolved the cabinet on 17 January in the face of widespread parliamentary opposition. Sharmarke requested, and was granted, a 14-day extension by parliament to reassemble the cabinet. After meeting with President Mohamud and Prime Minister Sharmarke on 21 January, representatives of the AU, IGAD, EU, UK, UN and US issued a joint statement the next day expressing concern over political delays and calling for the rapid appointment of a new parliament-endorsed cabinet. 

The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate in Somalia. The Secretary-General’s January report attributes this trend to “drought, conflict, rising food prices, access constraints and slow funding”. More than 1 million people are unable to meet their basic food requirements and another 2.1 million people are in danger of acute food insecurity, bringing the total number of people in need of humanitarian assistance to the highest level since the end of the 2011 famine. Insecurity remains a problem throughout the road network of the south-central region, hindering humanitarian and development assistance. Due to severe funding shortages, humanitarian operations are at risk of shutting down in Somalia. As of 29 December 2014, donors had contributed only 41 percent of the $933 million requested for the year.  

Key Issues

The principal issue for the Council within the context of February’s briefing and consultations is likely to be consideration of UNSOM’s implementation of two components of its mandate—good offices and mediation and advising on peacebuilding and statebuilding—in order to facilitate political stability in Somalia. 

A related issue for the Council is UNSOM’s role in assisting the FGS in managing the three statebuilding challenges of Vision 2016: federal state formation, revising and adopting a constitution, and holding national elections by September 2016. 

Options

As UNSOM’s mandate does not expire until 28 May, the Council is unlikely to take any action specifically regarding the special political mission at this juncture.

To better address the current political situation in Somalia, Council members could request an informal interactive dialogue via video teleconference with President Mohamud and Prime Minister Sharmarke. 

Council and Wider Dynamics

The 22 January joint statement by the envoys of the AU, EU, IGAD, UK, UN and US represents a unified voice by regional and international stakeholders in Somalia.  The statement, which called on the president, prime minister and parliament to unite for the good of the country and move toward implementation of Vision 2016, echoed themes previously emphasised by the Security Council in its press statement of 10 December 2014. Following the parliamentary vote of no confidence that led to the removal of Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed on 6 December 2014, Council members stressed the importance of the “rapid establishment of an inclusive and representative government” and underlined their concern that further political instability risks undermining any progress made thus far toward peace and security.  The three core statebuilding tasks of Vision 2016 are formidable even under the best of circumstances: forming federal states (which also includes resolving the complex questions of semi-autonomous Puntland and secessionist Somaliland), revising and adopting a constitution, and then holding national elections by September 2016.  As the Council has already noted, the necessary precursor to these ambitious endeavours remains political stability. The briefing and consultations in February provide an opportunity to attain more clarity on the immediate political situation, including with respect to how (and to what extent) UNSOM can facilitate unity.   

The UK is the penholder on Somalia, and Venezuela is the chair of the 751/1907 Somalia-Eritrea Sanctions Committee. 

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution
24 October 2014 S/RES/2182 This resolution authorised naval interdiction of illicit charcoal and illicit arms, renewed authorisation for AMISOM and renewed sanctions measures.
Secretary-General’s Report
23 January 2015 S/2015/51 This was the latest UNSOM report.
Security Council Press Statements
26 December 2014 SC/11721 This was a press statement condemning the attack on 25 December against the AMISOM Halane Base Camp, perpetrated by Al Shabaab, which caused numerous deaths including of three AMISOM soldiers and a civilian contractor.
10 December 2014 SC/11691 This was a statement that welcomed the resolution of the political crisis in Somalia through parliamentary channels.

Useful Additional Resources 

Communiqué: 53rd Extraordinary Session of the IGAD Council of Ministers, IGAD Council of Ministers, 10 January 2015.

Jeff Drumtra, Internal Displacement in Somalia, Brookings Institution, December 2014.