April 2017 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 March 2017
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Somalia and Eritrea

Expected Council Action

In April, the Chair of the Somalia and Eritrea 751/1907 Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Kairat Umarov (Kazakhstan), will deliver his 120-day briefing to the Council. The Council also expects to receive the midterm update of the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG). The mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) expires on 16 June.

Key Recent Developments

The most recent Council action on Somalia and Eritrea sanctions took place last November. On 8 November 2016, the outgoing chair of the 751/1907 Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela), briefed Council members on the final reports of the 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. The resolution also extended the SEMG’s mandate until 15 December 2017.

During negotiations on resolution 2317, China proposed language requesting the SEMG to present a report within 120 days to the Committee on recommendations for lifting sanctions imposed on Eritrea, including benchmarks and a timeframe. (The report of the SEMG had found for the third year in a row that Eritrea was not supporting the Al-Shabaab terrorist group.) However, the proposal was not accepted by the penholder, the UK, in a 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.

Meanwhile, Somalia is in the grip of an intense drought. More than six million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and half of those need urgent life-saving measures, according to UNSOM. Newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo” declared the drought situation a national disaster on 28 February and has pledged to use all available platforms in the coming weeks and months to highlight it, including a forthcoming high-level partnership meeting on Somalia scheduled to be held in London on 11 May. In attempting to facilitate the delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid, the government has reportedly provided tax exemptions on imports of critical humanitarian supplies that still carry any form of taxes; temporarily lifted taxes and levies on NGOs to enable them to scale up the delivery of humanitarian assistance; strengthened security at critical areas of humanitarian delivery, including the removal of illegal roadblocks; and imposed firm measures to prevent and penalise diversion of humanitarian assistance. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator has appealed for $825 million to prevent the crisis from deteriorating into a famine. More than $400 million has been pledged by donors to support an escalation of the drought response, and the Humanitarian Coordinator urged donors to expedite disbursement of these funds to allow partners to scale up their work. On 7 March, Secretary-General António Guterres visited Somalia to highlight the crisis and appeal for assistance.

Al-Shabaab militants have reportedly been distributing food to drought-stricken Somalis. During the last famine, in 2011, Al-Shabaab blocked aid deliveries, burned food, and killed humanitarian workers. More than 260,000 people died in that famine. Meanwhile, the group continues to launch asymmetrical attacks, such as the 22 March deadly car bomb attack targeting a security checkpoint near the presidential palace in Mogadishu that killed at least five people and wounded several others.

The Council was last briefed on the situation in Somalia on 23 March, when Special Representative Michael Keating, African Union (AU) Special Representative to Somalia Francisco Madeira, and President Farmaajo addressed the Council, the latter two by video teleconference. Also on 23 March, the Council adopted resolution 2346, which extended the mandate of UNSOM until 16 June. The Council is awaiting recommendations from the Secretary-General on the UN’s role in Somalia in the post-election period, and for that reason opted for a rollover of UNSOM’s mandate until those recommendations can be duly considered. The report is expected in mid-May.

Key Issues

On sanctions, a key issue in April will be assessing the Federal Government of Somalia’s management of arms and ammunition and implementation of maritime interdiction measures regarding arms and charcoal.

Considering the findings of the midterm report of the SEMG and determining whether to consider altering or ending the Eritrea sanctions regime, as advocated by some Council members, will be a major issue.

Regarding Somalia more generally, the pressing issue is the drought and looming famine and ensuring an appropriate humanitarian response.

Ensuring that progress is made towards the constitutional review process and completion of the federal state formation, with support from UNSOM, continues to be a concern.

Regarding security concerns, a main priority is strengthening the Somali national security forces and enhancing their ability to work with the AU Mission in Somalia (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 in April will be merely to receive the briefing by the chair, and waiting until after the receipt of the midterm report at the end of the month before determining whether to take any further action concerning the Eritrea sanctions regime.

Council Dynamics

Regarding sanctions, the Council is divided between those members who believe it should reconsider sanctions 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 SEMG as a precondition for any changes in the sanctions regime. Ethiopia is likely to oppose the easing or lifting of sanctions on Eritrea advocated by some members.

On Somalia more generally, Council members are united in supporting state-building processes and in their support for AMISOM, as demonstrated by unified messages conveyed during the Council’s visit to Somalia in May 2016 and the uncontentious adoption of several recent Council outcomes on Somalia.

The UK is the penholder on Somalia, and Kazakhstan is the chair of the 751/1907 Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee for 2017.

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Security Council Resolutions
23 March 2017 S/RES/2346 This was a technical rollover of UNSOM’s mandate until 16 June 2017.
10 November 2016 S/RES/2317 This was a resolution on Somalia and Eritrea sanctions with ten votes in favour.
Secretary-General’s Reports
9 January 2017 S/2017/21 This was the Secretary-General’s report on Somalia.
Security Council Meeting Records
23 March 2017 S/PV.7905 This was a briefing by Keating, Madeira and Farmaajo.
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.

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