September 2018 Monthly Forecast



Expected Council Action

In September, the Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), Michael Keating, will brief the Council, followed by consultations. The mandate of UNSOM expires on 27 March 2019.

A joint operational readiness assessment of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is due on 15 September. The authorisation of AMISOM expires on 31 May 2019.

Key Recent Developments

The armed group Al-Shabaab remains highly active. On 23 July, the group claimed to have killed 27 Somali soldiers in an attack on an army base 50 kilometres from Kismayu. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for two car bombs that killed six people on 5 August at separate locations in Somalia. At least nine were killed and several others wounded on 13 August in clashes between Al-Shabaab and local fighters in Juba region when the group attacked local farmers. On 16 August, Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed replaced key security officials, including appointing a new army chief and deputy director of the national intelligence agency, a move authorities said is part of a new strategy to quell the wave of recent attacks.

In a 5 July letter to the president of the Security Council, the Secretary-General conveyed the findings of a comprehensive assessment of AMISOM conducted jointly with the AU, requested by resolution 2372. This assessment echoed views previously expressed by the AMISOM troop-contributing countries (TCCs), namely that Somali security forces have deficiencies in capacity and in command and control. The assessment concluded that a premature handover of security responsibilities would be risky, and that the continued presence of AMISOM is necessary during the transition as Somalia builds the capability of its security forces and institutions and prepares for elections in 2020-2021. These conclusions were similar to those of the December 2017 operational readiness assessment of the Somali security forces prepared by Somalia at the request of the Council.

On 30 July, the Council adopted resolution 2431 renewing the authorisation of AMISOM until 31 May 2019 and determining that troop levels will be reduced to 20,626 by 28 February 2019, down from the current 21,626, and that the mission will have a minimum of 1,040 police personnel. The reductions were in line with the Secretary-General’s recommendation that the drawdown (initially scheduled for 30 October 2018, under resolution 2372) be postponed in light of the conclusions of the joint assessment. The resolution stated that the Council regretted the need for delay in drawing down the level of uniformed AMISOM personnel, and stressed that there should be no further delay in this regard beyond 28 February 2019. The new deadline should allow the forthcoming joint AU-UN operational readiness assessment of AMISOM, as well as the recent joint comprehensive assessment of AMISOM, to feed into the revised AU concept of operations for AMISOM, which is expected by 1 November. Detailed planning for the first phase of the Somali transition plan for its security forces to take over responsibilities from AMISOM is also expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The resolution stressed the need to enhance the predictability, sustainability and flexibility of financing for AU-led peace support operations authorised by the Council, repeating language from previous resolutions, and encouraged the Secretary-General, AU and partners to continue to explore arrangements to establish secure future funding for AMISOM. Though some Council members are open to using assessed contributions to fund AMISOM, the US continues to oppose the use of such contributions for a non-UN mission. Others have expressed concerns over AMISOM’s human rights record in this context.

On the political front, the UN, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), AMISOM, the EU, the AU, the UK and the US issued a joint statement on 8 August, voicing concern over delays in the resolution of Somalia’s long-standing political crisis and urging Somalia to move more swiftly on political reforms. The statement came as Somalia struggled to recover from a crisis that was ignited when a recent parliamentary no-confidence vote almost turned violent, eventually resulting in the ouster of Somalia’s then prime minister. (The standoff ended peacefully after AMISOM intervened to encourage the sides to engage in dialogue.) Since then, the Parliament has confirmed Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke as the country’s new prime minister.

On 9 July, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed a peace agreement in Asmara, ending a 20-year conflict. They restored diplomatic relations and agreed to open embassies and resume flight services. In addition, Ethiopia will use port facilities in Eritrea. In a visit to Ethiopia the same day, the Secretary-General said that the agreement could lead to the removal of UN sanctions on Eritrea. On 23 July, Ambassador Tekeda Alemu (Ethiopia) updated Council members on the recent developments under “any other business”. Ethiopia has taken the position that sanctions on Eritrea should be lifted.

Welcoming these recent developments in a letter transmitted to the Secretary-General on 11 July, Djibouti referred to resolutions 1862 and 1907 of 2009, which called on Eritrea to withdraw its forces to their previous positions from an area disputed with Djibouti, the Ras Doumeira peninsula and adjacent territory, and to engage in the peaceful settlement of the dispute (resolution 1907 imposes sanctions for obstructing the implementation of resolution 1862 concerning Djibouti). The letter further noted that an unsuccessful Qatari mediation effort ended on 13 June 2017, and all Qatari observer forces deployed since 2010 have left. Djibouti called on the Secretary-General, in close collaboration with the Security Council, to use his good offices to facilitate an agreement between the parties on a particular method of dispute settlement, preferably adjudication or arbitration. 

On 30 July, the presidents of Eritrea and Somalia announced that the two countries would establish diplomatic relations and exchange ambassadors after years of animosity. The two also called for the lifting of sanctions on Eritrea.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 20 July, Keating briefed the 751/1907 Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee.

On 30 July, the chair of the sanctions committee, Ambassador Kairat Umarov (Kazakhstan), briefed the Council on the work of the committee, followed by consultations. Umarov updated the Council on his 4-10 May visit to Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, during which he was accompanied by representatives from Ethiopia, Kuwait, the Netherlands and Sweden. The delegation was unable to visit Eritrea, which has continuously refused to cooperate with the committee. During this meeting, the representative of Djibouti said that as long as Eritrea refuses to comply with the sanctions regime, the sanctions must remain in place.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 13 August, UNSOM and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a joint report detailing human rights violations and abuses by state security forces, including the police and intelligence agencies, and non-state actors, among them Al-Shabaab, that were committed before, during and after the parliamentary and presidential elections in late 2016 and early 2017. According to the report, 13 clan elders and two electoral delegates were killed between August 2016 and the presidential election on 8 February 2017. Violent attacks on people involved in the election process continued after this with the killing of 29 clan elders and electoral delegates, including three women. In addition, journalists, human rights defenders and political leaders were subjected to attacks, intimidation and other forms of harassment and interference. The report concluded that “insecurity, weak justice institutions, and an insufficient human rights protection system contributed to the lack of accountability for human rights violations throughout Somalia” and called for prompt, independent and impartial investigations into human rights violations and abuses committed in the context of the electoral process. The Human Rights Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia and consider his report (A/HRC/39/72) during its 39th session in September.

Key Issues and Options

A key issue is maintaining AMISOM’s capabilities until the Somali security forces can progressively take the lead in providing security and ensuring that AMISOM has the means to assist Somali security forces to achieve this goal.

After the postponement of troop reductions to 28 February 2019, a priority for the Council is to continue to monitor the situation and the readiness of the Somali security forces in order to assess whether the drawdown timeline remains appropriate.  

Closely related is the continued need to secure predictable and sustainable funding for AMISOM and Somali security institutions throughout this process, as this subject was not addressed in resolution 2431 and remains a contentious issue among Council members.

Council members will consider the impact of the recent positive regional developments on the sanctions regime, particularly as it is scheduled to review the regime and renew some of its elements by 15 November.

Council Dynamics

Council members are united in supporting state-building and in their support for AMISOM and UNSOM. The negotiations over resolution 2431, however, exposed a divergence in views among Council members on some important issues.

During the negotiations over resolution 2431, France and the US made clear that they will not support further delays in troop reductions, and language to that effect was inserted into the text. No Council member took the position during the negotiations that the drawdown should be cancelled altogether. However, it is unclear if there will be changes between now and 28 February 2019 that make the situation more conducive for troop reductions, or if any progress will be made in the implementation of the Somali transition plan during this period.

Another controversial issue is giving AMISOM a political role, similar to that of a UN peacekeeping mission, which was advocated by Ethiopia during the negotiations. After the adoption of resolution 2431, Alemu said that AMISOM “can and should play a role in carrying out civilian responsibilities complementary to the efforts” of UNSOM. Several Council members maintain that this would be unnecessary, given UNSOM’s political mandate.

Council members have started a conversation on lifting sanctions on Eritrea. Some Council members would like to see the sanctions lifted soon, especially as the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group has consistently found no evidence that the country has supported Al-Shabaab in recent years. Others point to the fact that Eritrea has never accepted the Security Council’s sanctions regime and take the view that if sanctions are to be lifted, Eritrea must acknowledge it in some form. There are also concerns over sanctions related to Eritrea’s dispute with Djibouti, which have yet to be addressed.

The UK is the penholder on Somalia.

Security Council Resolutions
30 July 2018 S/RES/2431 This was a resolution renewing the mandate of AMISOM until 31 May 2019.
30 August 2017 S/RES/2372 This resolution reauthorised AMISOM until 31 May 2018.
Secretary-General’s Reports
2 May 2018 S/2018/411 This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNSOM.
Security Council Meeting Records
30 July 2018 S/PV.8322 This was a briefing by the chair of the 751/1907 Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Kairat Umarov (Kazakhstan).
30 July 2018 S/PV.8321 This was the meeting at which resolution 2431, renewing the authorisation of AMISOM until 31 May 2019, was adopted.
Security Council Letters
11 July 2018 S/2018/687 This was a letter from the Permanent Representative of Djibouti to the Security Council regarding its unresolved boundary dispute with Eritrea.
5 July 2018 S/2018/674 This was the Secretary-General’s report on the comprehensive assessment of AMISOM, requested by resolution 2372.