Expected Council Action
In August, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution reauthorising the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for an additional year.
Key Recent Developments
The security situation in Somalia remains precarious, with attacks by militant Islamist group Al-Shabaab continuing. On 2 July, a roadside bomb struck a minibus north of Mogadishu, killing two people and injuring six others. At least four soldiers were killed and several others wounded on 23 July when a roadside blast targeted a security convoy 250 kilometres south-west of the capital Mogadishu; Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.
Al-Shabaab militants have also stepped up attacks in neighbouring Kenya. Several attacks took place in July, in areas close to Kenya’s long, porous border with Somalia. These attacks include the 5 July killing of three Kenyan police officers by Al-Shabaab gunmen in the Pandaguo area of Lamu County; the 8 July beheading of nine Kenyans in the same area; and the 20 July killing of two people by Al-Shabaab gunmen in Kiunga, Lamu County.
On 12 July, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) adopted a communiqué on the report of the chairperson of the AU Commission on the AU-UN joint review of AMISOM, the AU’s renewal of the mandate of AMISOM, and the report on the 10-year lessons learned assessment of AMISOM. (At press time, the UN Security Council had not yet received the report of the joint review.)
In the communiqué, the PSC requested the AU Commission to establish a committee of experts to develop a joint AU/troop and police contributors’ exit strategy, stressing the importance of an AMISOM transition plan that is based on a realistic timeframe and the attainment of the key security conditions suggested by the AU-UN joint review. The communiqué endorsed the review’s recommendations on a phased reduction and reorganisation of AMISOM’s uniformed personnel, with Somali National Security Forces (SNSF) progressively taking the lead in undertaking security tasks. The communiqué underlined the need to avoid any security vacuum. The PSC further emphasised that the continued presence of AMISOM in Somalia and the implementation of a viable transition necessitates the securing of predictable and sustainable funding for AMISOM and Somali security institutions.
The humanitarian situation in Somalia remains dire. According to a 24 July OCHA report on drought response, 6.7 million Somalis are in need of aid. Somalis displaced by drought remain highly vulnerable to the spread of acute watery diarrhoea (AWD), as well as cholera and other communicable diseases, because of limited access to safe water and poor sanitation and hygiene conditions. According to the report, over 70,000 AWD/cholera cases and 1,098 related deaths have been recorded since the beginning of 2017.
Sexual and gender-based violence has increased in the context of drought-related displacement. Between November 2016 and March, UNICEF and partners responded on average to about 300 cases of rape, sexual assault and gender-related violence each month. In June, the number tripled, with 909 reported cases. Over 750,000 people have been displaced since November.
On 24 July, the chair of the 751/1907 Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Kairat Umarov (Kazakhstan), delivered his 120-day briefing to Council members in consultations, covering the period from April to July 2017. The chair reported that the Committee received two notifications pertaining to humanitarian exemptions, one request for advance approval for supply of arms to the government, and three notifications of transfers of arms to the government for the development of the national security forces. His briefing touched on the 21 April midterm update of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG). In this update, the SEMG reported that the terrorist group Al-Shabaab remained the most significant threat to peace and security, while an extremist group affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is increasing in size. The resurgence of piracy off the coast of Somalia and the charcoal ban were also addressed.
On Eritrea, Umarov updated Council members on the allegations by two member states concerning the transfer of weapons from Eritrea to Al-Shabaab made in late 2016, reporting that Djibouti has yet to provide the group with sufficient information to support its allegations and that the SEMG is awaiting further information to corroborate information already received. The SEMG reported that Eritrea continued its support to Ethiopian and Djiboutian opposition groups, he said. The SEMG’s investigation into a consignment of 24,900 blank-firing pistols destined for Sudan via Massawa port in Eritrea continues. The SEMG observed that the pistols fall within the scope of the arms embargo and their import to and export from Eritrea would constitute violations of the embargo.
The chair also addressed the Djibouti-Eritrea conflict, following Qatar’s 14 June announcement that it would no longer mediate between the parties and its withdrawal of peacekeeping forces from the border areas. On 16 June, Djibouti accused Eritrea of occupying disputed territory along their mutual border. The SEMG has requested access to the border area but has only gained clearance by the Djiboutian side. Umarov also reported that his planned visit to the region in late July—which was to include a visit to Asmara—had to be postponed at the request of the Eritrean government.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In a statement on 26 May, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Bahame Tom Mukirya Nyanduga, called on the international community to support the country through the current humanitarian crisis, its ongoing state-building process, and efforts to improve the human rights situation. The statement came after the conclusion of Bahame Nyanduga’s visit to Somalia from 15 to 25 May. Bahame Nyanduga also expressed concern about violations of the right to freedom of expression and media rights in Somalia, including detention without trial, police brutality, and intimidation of journalists. Bahame Nyanduga is set to submit a report to the Human Rights Council at its 36th session in September.
Concerning the reauthorisation of AMISOM, a key issue is ensuring that the mission is equipped to adequately strengthen the SNSF so they can progressively take the lead in providing security. This is particularly urgent in light of AMISOM’s plan to begin withdrawing from Somalia in October 2018, since a premature handover of security responsibilities would risk undermining Somalia’s security and political gains.
Closely related is the need to secure predictable and sustainable funding for AMISOM and Somali security institutions. In this regard, the AU’s requests for the UN to provide AMISOM with funding through assessed contributions, also suggested by Secretary-General António Guterres during his March visit to Somalia, may be considered by the Council.
Another issue concerning AMISOM is ensuring that its forces comply with human rights standards, including in joint military operations with the SNSF against Al-Shabaab. Likewise, encouraging Somali security forces to meet such standards, including through participation in human rights training programs provided by the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), is crucial to facilitating a successful transition.
Pressing humanitarian issues include ensuring effective humanitarian responses to the drought, the looming famine, and the outbreak of cholera.
The most likely option in August will be to reauthorise AMISOM for one year using the observations and recommendations of the joint AU-UN review of AMISOM as a basis for any alterations to the mandate.
Council and Wider Dynamics
On Somalia 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 AU continues to press the Council to do more to ensure predictable and sustainable funding for AMISOM. It appears that most Council members are in favour of providing some funding to AMISOM through UN assessed contributions, however, the US is opposed to the proposal.
Regarding sanctions, the Council is divided between those members who believe that, because evidence of Eritrean support for Al-Shabaab is lacking, it should reconsider its measures against Eritrea, 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.
The UK is the penholder on Somalia, and Kazakhstan is the chair of the 751/1907 Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SOMALIA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|26 May 2017 S/RES/2355||This was a resolution extending AMISOM’s authorisation until 31 August 2017 with no changes.|
|10 November 2016 S/RES/2317||This was a resolution on Somalia and Eritrea sanctions with ten votes in favour.|
|9 May 2017 S/2017/408||This was the Secretary-General’s report on Somalia.|
|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.|