Expected Council Action
In November, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution on the Somalia and Eritrea sanctions regime, addressing the partial lifting of the arms embargo on Somali security forces, the authorisation for maritime interdiction to enforce the embargo on illicit arms imports and charcoal exports, and humanitarian exemptions to the sanctions regime, which all expire on 15 November. The Council will also consider lifting sanctions on Eritrea. The mandate review of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG), which expires on 15 December, is also due in November.
The chair of the 751/1901 Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Kairat Umarov (Kazakhstan), will brief the Council in consultations.
Finally, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing counter-piracy measures which expire on 7 November.
The authorisation of the AU Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) expires on 31 May 2019.
Key Recent Developments
The armed group Al-Shabaab remains highly active. On 12 October, US airstrikes on an Al-Shabaab camp near Harardhere, about 500 kilometres north-east of Mogadishu, killed about 60 militants. On 16 October, two Ugandan AMISOM troops were killed and several were injured in an ambush by Al-Shabaab militants in the town of Marka in southern Somalia. Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in restaurants in the city of Baidoa in south-western Somalia on 14 October, killing 20 people and injuring 40 others. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Regional political developments will be at the heart of discussions about the sanctions regime. On 9 July, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed a peace agreement in Asmara, ending a 20-year conflict. During consultations on 23 July, Ethiopia updated Council members on the recent developments under “any other business”. Eritrea and Ethiopia signed an Agreement on Peace, Friendship and Comprehensive Cooperation on 16 September, which was welcomed by Council members in a press statement. Ethiopia has taken the position that sanctions on Eritrea should be lifted.
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, to engage in the peaceful settlement of the border dispute and to resolve related issues such as unaccounted-for prisoners of war (resolution 1907 imposes sanctions for obstructing the implementation of resolution 1862 concerning Djibouti). 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 6 September, Eritrea and Djibouti announced the restoration of diplomatic ties, following a trilateral high-level meeting with Ethiopia, and the presidents of the two states met in Jeddah on 17 September. On 25 September, Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed met with Umarov in New York. This was followed by a meeting between an Eritrean presidential advisor and the SEMG, also in New York.
In October, the Council received the final report of the SEMG and discussed it in a meeting of the 751/1901 Sanctions Committee on 12 October. The report notes that while the quantity of illicitly exported charcoal has diminished, it continues to be a significant source of revenue for Al-Shabaab. It further points to some Gulf countries and Iran as importers of charcoal. In the 12 October meeting, the SEMG indicated that it would provide the committee with information on individuals involved in the charcoal trade. The report further notes that the United Arab Emirates has violated the arms embargo imposed on Somalia by continuing the construction of a military base in Somaliland. Furthermore, in September 2017, a ship heading from Yemen to Somalia was seized and armaments were found on board, including Chinese weapons. The report also highlights continuing concerns over lack of Somali compliance with reporting requirements on exemptions from the arms embargo and points to Somalia’s limited capacity in this regard.
On Eritrea, the report states that for the fifth year in a row, the SEMG found no conclusive evidence that Eritrea was providing support to Al-Shabaab. Furthermore, it notes that armed groups acting against Ethiopia with the support of Eritrea have now signed agreements with Ethiopia.
On piracy, the Secretary-General transmitted his report on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia on 10 October. The report found that five significant piracy incidents occurred near the Somali coastline between 1 October 2017 and 30 September 2018. No ships were successfully hijacked for ransom nor were any hostages taken. The Secretary-General noted that another attack on a ship on 22 July “was assessed as an Al-Shabaab event rather than piracy, demonstrating the fluid nature of the maritime security space in Somalia.”
The report concludes that “continued piracy attempts demonstrate that the underlying conditions fuelling piracy have not yet changed and that piracy networks are still very much active”, and that piracy networks remain ready to resume attacks should the opportunity present itself. In 2018, the report adds, pirates have extended their potential field of operations as far across the Indian Ocean as possible to ensure a successful hijacking. It concludes that the international community’s ongoing counter-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia remain critical for the region and that reducing related transnational organised crime will assist these efforts.
On 1 October, Nicholas Haysom succeeded Michael Keating as the Special Representative for Somalia and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 39th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an interactive dialogue on 26 September with the independent expert on human rights in Somalia, Bahame Nyanduga, and considered his report (A/HRC/39/72). The independent expert highlighted the suffering of women and girls, particularly the endemic problem of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as the abduction and forced recruitment of children by Al-Shabaab. The continued violation by both the federal and state security forces of the rights to freedom of expression and opinion was highlighted in the report as well as the situation of internally displaced persons. On 28 September, the HRC adopted without a vote a resolution on assistance to Somalia in the field of human rights (A/HRC/RES/39/23). The resolution renewed the mandate of the independent expert for one year and requested him to report to the HRC at its 42nd session and to the General Assembly at its 74th session, both in September 2019.
Key Issues and Options
The impact of the recent positive regional developments will be a central element in the review of the sanctions regime. The Council may consider lifting sanctions on Eritrea partially or completely while allowing the SEMG to continue to monitor regional developments.
The Council may also call on states to meet their obligations in implementing the sanctions regime, particularly with respect to the arms embargo and charcoal ban, and impose or threaten to impose sanctions on individuals involved in the illicit trade in charcoal.
Council members have been considering lifting sanctions on Eritrea in recent months. They conveyed to Eritrea that this could be done if Eritrea receives Umarov for a visit, meets with the coordinator of the SEMG, and commits to resolving its dispute with Djibouti. These steps have been viewed with flexibility, and Council members seem to agree that the recent meetings between Eritrean officials and Umarov and the coordinator may suffice.
On the Eritrea-Djibouti front, Council members agree that there have been positive developments. Nevertheless, there are diverging views as to whether these are sufficient to justify lifting sanctions. Ethiopia, with the support of some members, such as Russia and Sweden, has been pushing for the lifting of sanctions on Eritrea. The US and France have expressed more cautious views, insisting that Eritrea and Djibouti demonstrate commitment to resolving their dispute beforehand, for example in a letter to the Council.
The UK is the penholder on Somalia, and the US is the penholder on piracy.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SOMALIA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|30 July 2018 S/RES/2431||This was a resolution renewing the mandate of AMISOM until 31 May 2019.|
|14 November 2017 S/RES/2385||This was a resolution on Somalia and Eritrea sanctions with 11 affirmative votes and four abstentions (Bolivia, China, Egypt, Russia).|
|7 November 2017 S/RES/2383||Renewed for one year authorisation for international naval forces to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia.|
|10 October 2018 S/2018/903||This was the Secretary-General’s report on piracy in Somalia.|
|30 August 2018 S/2018/800||This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNSOM and UNSOS.|
|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.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|13 September 2018 S/PV.8352||This is a briefing by Special Representative and head of UNSOM Michael Keating on the latest UNSOM report.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|20 September 2018 SC/13516||Council members issued a press statement welcoming the Agreement on Peace, Friendship and Comprehensive Cooperation signed by Eritrea and Ethiopia on 16 September.|