Somalia and Eritrea
Expected Council Action
In July, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), Nicholas Kay, is expected to brief the Council. A resolution renewing the mandate of UNSOM, which expires 7 August, is scheduled for adoption.
Additionally, Ambassador Rafael Ramírez (Venezuela), chair of the 751/1907 Somalia-Eritrea Sanctions Committee, will brief Council members in consultations on the work of the Committee since his last 120-day briefing.
Key Recent Developments
Al-Shabaab continues to be active in Somalia and Kenya. On 13 May, Al-Shabaab kidnapped 14 Iranian fishermen whose boat washed ashore in the Galgugud region of central Somalia. On 23 May, at least 45 people were killed in fighting in the Lower Shabelle region south of Mogadishu when Al-Shabaab launched a surprise attack on government forces. According to a local government official, the casualties included 26 Al-Shabaab fighters and 19 government soldiers. On 25 May, Al-Shabaab attacked two police patrols near Garissa, Kenya, and claimed to have killed 25 policemen, while a police spokesman said 13 officers had gone missing. On 11 June, an Ethiopian contingent of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali National Army forces defending a convoy of relief supplies clashed with Al-Shabaab in the Bay region. According to AMISOM, the attack by Al-Shabaab was repelled, and its forces were defeated in the battle. The insurgency, however, claims to have killed 30 soldiers. Al-Shabaab attacked a humanitarian convoy in Mogadishu on 24 June and an AMISOM base camp in Leego on 26 June. Council members condemned both attacks in press statements.
Kay and Maman Sidikou, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and head of AMISOM, briefed the Council via video teleconference on 19 May. Kay spoke on the 12 May Secretary-General’s report on UNSOM, while Sidikou previewed the findings and recommendations of a forthcoming AU-UN report requested in resolution 2182. The report, based on a joint assessment mission from 14 to 25 April, concerns benchmarks for UN peacekeeping, the AMISOM troop surge authorised in resolution 2124 and future military strategy in Somalia. It was due 30 May but delayed one month, apparently because of consultations with AMISOM troop-contributing countries. On 26 May, the Council adopted resolution 2221, extending the mandate of UNSOM until 7 August. This rollover was meant to enable the Council to first consider the findings and recommendations of the AU-UN report, particularly with respect to UNSOM’s mandate.
On 8 June, Council members met in an informal interactive dialogue on AMISOM with Sidikou and Kay. Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Atul Khare participated in the meeting, particularly with respect to the UN Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA). Council members discussed a wide range of issues related to AMISOM, including benchmarking for UN peacekeeping, a review of UNSOA’s operations, AMISOM’s sectors of operation and whether they should be extended to incorporate semi-autonomous Puntland, aspects of command and control for troop-contributing countries, policing and potential police-contributing countries, and allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. Although the meeting was substantive and two hours long, its effectiveness regarding future planning was perhaps reduced by the delayed release of the joint AU-UN report that was intended to inform the discussion.
On 1 May, the 751/1907 Somalia-Eritrea Sanctions Committee held a meeting regarding maritime interdiction of illegal charcoal exports and illicit arms imports. Resolution 2182, which authorised the maritime interdiction, stipulated a review within six months of adoption on 24 October 2014. The coordinator of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, a representative of the Combined Maritime Forces conducting anti-piracy operations and a representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime attended the meeting. Options discussed at the meeting include either updating the implementation assistance notice regarding charcoal issued on 7 May 2014 or drafting a second implementation assistance notice.
On 23 May, Hassan Mahat Omar, a Kenyan Muslim cleric listed since 28 July 2011 under the 751/1907 Somalia-Eritrea sanctions regime for recruiting and fundraising for Al-Shabaab, and who had been arrested on 18 April for allegedly inciting the 2 April Al-Shabaab attack in Garissa, Kenya, was released on bail in Nairobi. Omar’s trial is scheduled for 30-31 July.
On 28 May, Al-Shabaab announced the death of Hassan Abdullah Hersi Al-Turki, a militia leader aligned with Al-Shabaab. Al-Turki was listed under the 751/1907 Somalia-Eritrea sanctions regime on 12 April 2010. Al-Shabaab claims he died of natural causes, but his death has not been independently confirmed. At least four others on the 751/1907 sanctions list have been reported as dead: Aboud Rogo Mohammed (unknown gunmen, Nairobi, 27 August 2012); Omar Hammami (Al-Shabaab infighting, Somalia, 12 September 2013); Abubaker Shariff Ahmed (unknown gunmen, Nairobi, 1 April 2014); and Ahmed Abdi Aw-Mohamed (US airstrike, Somalia, 1 September 2014).
Human Rights-Related Developments
The Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea released a report on 8 June, documenting systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations committed under the authority of the government, with some violations possibly constituting crimes against humanity. The report details how the government has created and sustained repressive systems to control, silence, and isolate individuals, depriving them of their fundamental freedoms. Individuals are routinely arrested and detained arbitrarily, tortured, disappeared or executed extra-judicially. According to the report, Eritreans are subject to systems of national service and forced labour, which “involves the systematic violation of an array of human rights on a scope and scale seldom witnessed elsewhere in the world”. Although the Commission was unable to visit Eritrea, its report was based on first-hand testimony and written submissions. The report was presented to the Human Rights Council on 23 June.
Regarding UNSOM, the principal focus will be on re-evaluating the special political mission’s mandate while considering the findings and recommendations of the forthcoming AU-UN report.
With respect to sanctions, implementation of the partial arms embargo and the charcoal export ban remains a challenge. Eritrea’s lack of cooperation with the Monitoring Group is another long-standing issue.
The implications of the joint AU-UN review of AMISOM for UNSOM’s mandate will remain unclear until release of the report, but a few options can nonetheless be inferred from preliminary discussions on 19 May and 8 June:
- establishing joint UNSOM-AMISOM operational planning and civilian presences in regional states of Somalia;
- expanding non-lethal support (currently provided by UNSOA to the Somali National Army) to 3,000 Puntland troops and the Somali Police Force;
- requesting the Secretary-General to increase the operational capacity of the UN Guard Unit, including a geographic expansion beyond Mogadishu to the regional states of Somalia; and
- modifying UNSOM’s “good offices” functions to include a specific reference to mediating inter-ethnic and clan-based violence.
One option regarding sanctions, which is apparently under consideration, would be for the 751/1907 Somalia-Eritrea Committee chair to visit the countries in the region, including Eritrea.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Since the establishment of UNSOM just over two years ago, policymaking regarding Somalia has been more collaborative than contentious within the Security Council (with the singular exception of the abstentions of Russia and Jordan on resolution 2182). Since the adoption of resolution 2124, which increased AMISOM’s authorisation from 17,731 to 22,126 troops (and thus also increased the number of troops eligible for salaries paid by the EU and logistical support provided by the UN), relations between the AU and UN have also improved with respect to Somalia. However, underlying sources of tension may resurface within the context of how the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council respond to the forthcoming AU-UN report, particularly regarding the financial and material resources provided to AMISOM for military operations and the division of labour with UNSOM for civilian tasks.
The US has shown greater engagement when US Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise visit to Somalia on 5 May. It was the first visit of a US secretary of state to Somalia.
The UK is the penholder on Somalia, and Venezuela is chair of the 751/1907 Somalia-Eritrea Sanctions Committee.
UN Documents on Somalia and Eritrea
|Security Council Resolutions|
|26 May 2015 S/RES/2221||This was a resolution renewing the mandate of UNSOM until 7 August.|
|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.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|19 May 2015 S/PV.7445||This was a briefing by Special Representative and head of UNSOM Nicholas Kay and Special Representative of the AU for Somalia and head of AMISOM Maman Sidikou via video teleconference from Addis Ababa.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|27 June 2015 SC/11949||This press statement condemned Al-Shabaab’s 26 June attack on AMISOM.|
|25 June 2015 SC/11945||This was a press statement condemning Al-Shabaab’s attack on a humanitarian convoy in Mogadishu.|
|12 May 2015 S/2015/331||This was the report of the Secretary-General on Somalia.|
|Human Rights Council Documents|
|4 June 2015 A/HRC/29/42||This was a report of the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea.|
Useful Additional Resources
Insult to Injury: the 2014 Lamu and Tana River Attacks and Kenya’s Abusive Response, Human Rights Watch, June 2015.
Vanda Felbab-Brown, “DDR—A Bridge Not Too Far: A Field Report from Somalia”, in James Cockayne and Siobhan O’Neil (eds.), UN DDR in an Era of Violent Extremism: Is it Fit for Purpose? (United Nations University, 2015), 104-137.