January 2019 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 December 2018
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Expected Council Action

In January 2019, the recently appointed Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), Nicholas Haysom, will brief the Council, followed by consultations. The mandate of UNSOM expires on 27 March 2019.

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. At least 22 people were killed in two separate militant attacks in Mogadishu and the town of Galkayo on 26 November 2018. The US carried out four airstrikes on 15 December and two more the following day south of Mogadishu, killing a total of 62 Al-Shabaab militants, according to the US military. On 16 December 2018, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed it killed 14 Al-Shabaab militants in clashes between the two groups. The US has reportedly carried out at least 46 airstrikes against Al-Shabaab in 2018.

A joint UNSOM and OHCHR brief tallied 78 killed and 62 injured civilians in Somalia during October 2018. Al-Shabaab was responsible for 46 percent of the casualties and 109 reported abductions. AMISOM personnel killed four and injured two civilians; the casualties were reportedly linked to poor crowd control and excessive use of force.

On the political front, the presidents of Eritrea and Somalia announced on 30 July 2018 that the two countries would establish diplomatic relations and exchange ambassadors after 15 years of animosity. As part of this rapprochement, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki paid his first-ever visit to Somalia on 13 December 2018 for the tripartite summit of the heads of state of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, held in Mogadishu, where they discussed regional economic cooperation. (Eritrea also signed a peace agreement with Ethiopia on 9 July 2018, ending a 20-year conflict.)

Domestically, the candidacy of former Al-Shabaab leader Muhktar Robow for president of South West State caused political strife between the state and the federal government. Robow, who quit Al-Shabaab in 2013, was arrested by Somali police backed by an AMISOM Ethiopian contingent on 13 December 2018, ahead of the 19 December elections in South West State. While the state accepted the candidature, the federal government demanded that the former militant be barred because of remaining US Treasury Department sanctions, and kept him off the ballot. The arrest prompted several days of demonstrations in Baidoa, South West State, which turned violent. A Somali police officer and 11 civilians, including a local lawmaker, were killed. Somalia’s former state minister for trade, Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed, won the election. The UNSOM, AMISOM, the US, the EU and other international partners issued a joint statement condemning the violence and urging constructive dialogue to resolve political differences and to address other challenges.

On 6 November 2018, the Council adopted resolution 2442, renewing for 12 months authorisations allowing international naval forces to fight piracy in the waters off the coast of Somalia.

Sanctions-Related Developments

Following the restoration of relations between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, the Council adopted resolution 2444 on 14 November 2018, lifting the arms embargoes, travel bans, and asset freezes on Eritrea and extending various elements of the Somalia sanctions regime until 15 November 2019. Accordingly, the resolution also terminated the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group and established the Panel of Experts on Somalia in its stead, reducing the number of experts from eight to six.

In light of the unresolved border dispute with Djibouti, which prompted sanctions on Eritrea in resolutions 1862 and 1907, the resolution urged Eritrea and Djibouti to continue efforts to settle their border dispute peacefully in a manner consistent with international law by an agreed means of pacific dispute settlement identified in Article 33 of the UN Charter, and called for the parties to engage on the issue of the Djiboutian combatants missing in action. The Council also requested the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council by 15 February 2019 and every six months thereafter on this matter and expressed the Council’s intention to keep normalisation efforts under review.

In addition to these changes in the sanctions regime, the resolution reaffirmed the arms embargo on Somalia while renewing 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 the humanitarian exemptions to the sanctions regime.

Key Issues and Options

After the lifting of sanctions on Eritrea in resolution 2444, a key issue will be monitoring regional developments—particularly between Eritrea and Djibouti—to assess the impact of the resolution and whether adjustments are necessary.

A continuing 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 from 30 October 2018 to 28 February 2019 in resolution 2431—in line with the Secretary-General’s recommendation to delay this process, because Somalia’s security forces were not ready to take over security responsibilities—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 Dynamics

Council members are united in supporting state-building and in their support for UNSOM and AMISOM. They remain concerned regarding the continuing tensions and lack of communication between the federal government and the states—including the recent events in Baidoa—and their implications for political stability.

Despite the agreement in resolution 2431 to postpone the start of the next drawdown of AMISOM to 28 February 2019, some Council members remain sceptical, as they were during the negotiations over the resolution, that the drawdown will be warranted, as there are no further indications that Somalia is ready to take over more security responsibilities from AMISOM. Nevertheless, to get France and the US to agree to the postponement from 20 October 2018, explicit language was inserted in the resolution stressing that “there should be no further delay in the reduction of the level of uniformed AMISOM personnel beyond 28 February 2019”. Thus, unless the situation on the ground takes a serious turn for the worse, it seems unlikely that any Council member will attempt to alter the current drawdown schedule.

Ethiopia, an AMISOM troop-contributing country (TCC), concluded its Council term in December. Ethiopia consistently represented the views of AMISOM’s TCCs, most recently during negotiations over resolution 2431. It was also a strong proponent of lifting sanctions over Eritrea in light of regional developments, an issue the Council will continue to monitor in 2019.

The UK is the penholder on Somalia, and the US is the penholder on piracy.  Belgium is expected to chair the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee as of 1 January 2019.

Security Council Resolutions
14 November 2018S/RES/2444 This was a resolution lifting sanctions on Eritrea and extending various elements of the Somalia sanctions regime until 15 November 2019.
6 November 2018S/RES/2442 This was a resolution concerning piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia.
30 July 2018S/RES/2431 This was a resolution renewing the mandate of AMISOM until 31 May 2019.
Secretary-General’s Reports
10 October 2018S/2018/903 This was the Secretary-General’s report on piracy in Somalia.
30 August 2018S/2018/800 This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNSOM and UNSOS.
Security Council Meeting Records
13 September 2018S/PV.8352 This is a briefing by Special Representative and head of UNSOM Michael Keating on the latest UNSOM report.
Security Council Press Statements
10 November 2018SC/13572 This was a Council press statement condemning a terrorist attack in Mogadishu on 9 November resulting in several civilian casualties.
Sanctions Committee Documents
7 November 2018S/2018/1003 This was the report on Eritrea of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.