Expected Council Action
In January, the Council expects to receive the report of the Secretary-General on the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The Secretary-General’s options and recommendations for the UN presence in Somalia in the post-electoral phase requested by resolution 2275 were also expected in January, however, with the electoral process not yet complete, it is unclear when these will be transmitted. The mandate of UNSOM expires on 31 March 2017.
Key Recent Developments
Somalia’s electoral process remains ongoing. The conduct of elections for the upper and lower houses has been widely criticised. Somalia’s auditor general, Nur Jimale Farah, said in an interview in late November that vote-buying was a common practice. Farah reported that candidates in some regions, including the port city of Kismayo and the southwestern city of Baidoa, had been prevented from entering election halls, resulting in the other candidate being elected, and that some delegates in the electoral college had been threatened and as a result had abstained from voting. He also noted that cases in which government resources were used for vote buying in the election had also been documented.
On 27 December, Somali officials announced that the presidential election would not be held on 28 December as previously scheduled, but was being delayed for the fourth time until late January.
The security situation remains troubling. On 5 December, Somali security forces clashed with fighters claiming allegiance to the Islamic State militant group, which would reportedly be the first military confrontation with the Islamic State in Somalia. The governor of Bari in Puntland state said that Puntland security forces had killed seven militants after encountering a landmine laid by the group, which the security forces proceeded to dismantle. All of the militants killed were Somalis.
A surge in attacks by the rebel group Al-Shabaab continues. On 12 December, Al-Shabaab militants briefly seized a strategic town near the Somalia-Kenya border reportedly occupying the administrative headquarters and police station before government forces pushed them back. On 15 December, a bomb blast killed five soldiers and injured a dozen others in Mogadishu, hours after a car bombing at a checkpoint; an Al-Shabaab spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack on the soldiers. On 17 December, Al-Shabaab fighters moved into Somalia’s Mahaday district in the Middle Shabelle region, killing two government soldiers before withdrawing, residents and officials said. On 18 December, 12 people were killed, including nine civilians and three Al-Shabaab militants, in clashes near Kismayo in south Somalia, officials said; the militants also reportedly stole 2,000 camels from the local population.
On 5 December, the US designated Al-Shabaab as part of the armed conflict that the US Congress authorised against the perpetrators of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, according to senior American officials. The move was intended to shore up the legal basis for the US’ intensifying campaign of airstrikes and other counterterrorism operations carried out in support of AMISOM and Somali government forces.
The AU says it is investigating two recent incidents in which AMISOM troops allegedly killed 11 civilians in Somalia. An AMISOM armoured vehicle reportedly crashed into a house, killing a mother and five children in the southern port of Marka on 18 December. Earlier that same day, soldiers allegedly fired into a minibus killing six passengers in Qoryooley town in Lower Shabelle state.
On 17 December, AMISOM’s Burundi contingent embarked on an operation code-named “Antelope” to open up key supply routes in HirShabelle state. The operation’s objective is to open the roads to facilitate humanitarian access, allow the local population to move their crops from farms to markets and facilitate access for the military.
The humanitarian situation is also dire. On 2 December, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq, appealed for an urgent scale-up in humanitarian assistance as the country faces severe drought conditions, including food and water shortages. Describing the situation as “extremely worrying” and one that could deteriorate rapidly without a stepped-up response, he added that humanitarian organisations are in urgent need of additional resources to address the situation and help the country cope with other crises. He reported that the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan had received just 47 percent of the total $885 million request with only four weeks left in the year.
On 8 November, Council members were briefed by the outgoing chair of the 751/1907 Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela), on the final reports of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG). On 10 November, the Council adopted resolution 2317, renewing until 15 November 2017 the partial lifting of the embargo set out in resolution 2142, the humanitarian exemption and the authorisation for maritime interdiction. Concerning the SEMG, the resolution extended its mandate until 15 December 2017.
China had proposed language requesting the SEMG to present a report within 120 days to the Committee on recommendations for lifting sanctions measures imposed on Eritrea, including benchmarks and a timeframe for lifting the sanctions. (The report of the SEMG had found for the third year in a row that Eritrea was not supporting Al-Shabaab.) However, the proposal was not accepted by the penholder, the UK, in the draft placed under silence on 8 November. Angola, China, Egypt, Russia and Venezuela all broke silence when this proposal was not incorporated into the draft. As a compromise, text was included in the draft in blue expressing the Council’s “intention to review measures on Eritrea in light of the upcoming midterm update by the SEMG due by 30 April 2017, and taking into account relevant Security Council resolutions”. Some members believed that this compromise had the benefit of not prejudging the review of the sanctions on Eritrea, which in their view was the case with the Chinese proposal. However, Angola, China, Egypt, Russia and Venezuela all abstained, and the resolution was adopted with only ten affirmative votes.
A key issue is ensuring that Somalia completes the electoral process and proceeds to make progress on state-building issues, including the constitutional review and completion of federal state formation, with support from UNSOM.
On security concerns, a main priority is strengthening the Somali national security forces and enhancing their ability to work with AMISOM in the fight against Al-Shabaab, particularly in light of AMISOM’s plan to begin transitioning out of Somalia in October 2018.
The most likely option for the Council is to receive the January briefing without taking action.
Another option would be to issue a statement in response to the current situation regarding the electoral process.
A further option would be to consider the forthcoming recommendations of the Secretary-General on the UN’s presence in Somalia in the post-electoral phase and pursue action in that regard as necessary.
Council members are united in supporting Somalia’s electoral and state-building processes and in their support for AMISOM, as demonstrated by unified messages conveyed during the Council’s visit to Somalia in May and the uncontentious adoption of several recent Council outcomes on Somalia—including its 23 May press statement, 7 July AMISOM reauthorisation and 19 August presidential statement.
On sanctions, the Council is divided among those members who believe it should consider lifting the measures against Eritrea, such as China, Russia and Egypt, and those who remain concerned about Eritrea’s other activities in the region and seem to view cooperation with the Monitoring Group as a precondition for any changes in the sanctions regime.
Ethiopia, which has long been engaged militarily in Somalia and is a major troop-contributor to AMISOM, joins the Council in January. It remains to be seen how its presence will affect the Council’s discourse on Somalia. Ethiopia is likely to oppose the lifting of sanctions on Eritrea, advocated by some members.
The UK is the penholder on Somalia, and Kazakhstan will be the chair of the 751/1907 Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee for 2017.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|10 November 2016 S/RES/2317||This was a resolution on Somalia and Eritrea sanctions with ten votes in favour.|
|9 November 2016 S/RES/2316||This was a resolution reauthorising Somalia anti-piracy measures.|
|7 July 2016 S/RES/2297||This was a resolution which extended AMISOM’s authorisation until 31 May 2017 with no major changes.|
|24 March 2016 S/RES/2275||This was a resolution extending the mandate of UNSOM.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|19 August 2016 S/PRST/2016/13||This was a presidential statement that welcomed the meeting of Somalia’s NLF on the implementation of the 2016 National Electoral Process and regretted the delayed electoral timetable.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|7 October 2016 S/2016/920||This was the report on Eritrea of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.|
|7 October 2016 S/2016/919||This was the report on Somalia of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.|