August 2019 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 July 2019
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Expected Council Action

In August, the Security Council will have a briefing and consultations on the report on the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). The Council may also hear an update from the Secretary-General in a separate meeting on ongoing developments towards the normalisation of relations between Djibouti and Eritrea.

The mandate for UNSOM expires on 31 March 2020. The mandate authorising the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) expires on 31 May 2020.

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 expire on 15 November. The mandate of the Somalia Panel of Experts expires on 15 December. 

Key Recent Developments

The armed group Al-Shabaab remains active and dangerous. On 12 July, it claimed responsibility for an attack on the Asasey Hotel in Kismayo, Somalia. A suicide bomber blew up the entrance to the hotel using a car packed with explosives, and a 14-hour gun battle followed, with Al-Shabaab members taking over different parts of the hotel. Twenty-seven people were killed and 56 injured. (On 15 July, the Council issued a press statement that condemned the terrorist attack in Kismayo.) Additionally, a suicide bomber killed 11 government officials when she blew herself up in the office of the mayor of Mogadishu, Abdirahman Omar Osman (who was injured in the attack) on 24 July.

According to recent reports, Al-Shabaab’s numbers are estimated to be between 5,000 and 10,000, controlling roughly 20 percent of Somalia. The AU-UN joint assessment of AMISOM, which the Secretary-General sent in a 13 May letter to the Council, said that the increase in the number and frequency of Al-Shabaab attacks in Mogadishu is a dangerous security development. This increase was also noted in the Secretary-General’s report of 15 May. According to UNSOM’s Human Rights and Protection Group, 757 civilian casualties were recorded between 14 December 2018 and 4 May, of which 72 percent were attributed to Al-Shabaab, 9 percent to state security forces and 10 percent to unknown perpetrators, including six civilian casualties attributed to air strikes conducted by unknown aircraft. Humanitarian needs across Somalia remain high, with 4.2 million people requiring aid and protection.

The resolution renewing AMISOM’s authorisation was adopted unanimously on 31 May, as was the UNSOM mandate renewal on 27 March. AMISOM’s mandate remains largely unchanged. The main issue during negotiations appears to have arisen around the possible drawdown of AMISOM troop levels. The initial draft circulated by the UK, the penholder on Somalia, proposed a reduction of 1,000 troops by the end of December, but a compromise was reached in light of objections by the three African Council members (A3). The resolution established that a 1,000-troop drawdown must occur by the end of February 2020, but at the same time said that the Council will consider adjusting its decision based on the readiness of Somali security forces to take over responsibilities from AMISOM and a threat assessment to be conducted jointly by the AU, UN and Somalia before the planned drawdown.

In addition, while maintaining the minimum number of police personnel at 1,040, the resolution specifies that a temporary surge in police personnel will be considered by the Council if the Somali security plan for the elections, which has yet to be developed by the government, calls for such an addition. (Under the mandate, AMISOM may add police personnel within the troop ceiling set by the Council.)

The AU-UN review said that elections in Somalia are a key indicator of progress on the country’s path towards becoming a fully functioning federal state. However, there has been little movement on necessary preparations. AMISOM concluded a four-day workshop on electoral security and dispute resolution for Somali senior government officials involved in election planning in June in Uganda, but the electoral law that would allow for the registration of parties and candidates for the 2020 elections has not yet been adopted. These would be Somalia’s first free and fair elections since 1969.

On 30 May, James Swan, a former US ambassador to Djibouti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was named the new special representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNSOM. He also served as US Special Representative for Somalia from 2011 to 2013. Since his appointment, he has been traveling in Somalia and the region. Members will be interested to hear his first impressions. 

The Djibouti and Eritrea Developments

Eritrea has been a concern for the Council since 2000, largely in the context of its border dispute with Ethiopia. Eritrea also then became involved in the situation in Somalia, and on 18 May 2009, the Council adopted a presidential statement requesting the Somalia Sanctions Monitoring Group to follow up on “concern over reports that Eritrea has supplied arms to those opposing the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia in breach of the UN arms embargo.” The arms embargo in Somalia had been put in place in July 2002 and expanded in 2008. IGAD and the AU called in May 2009 for Eritrea to be placed under targeted sanctions due to its activities affecting Somalia and the region.  Meanwhile, since February 2008, Eritrea had also been involved in a border dispute with Djibouti which escalated to an armed conflict in June 2008. Due to a lack of cooperation from Eritrea–ranging from ignoring Secretary-General’s calls for restraint to outright refusal to allow a Security Council fact-finding mission to visit the country in July-August 2008—the Council imposed an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on Eritrea in  December 2009 in resolution 1907 and decided to expand the mandates of the Somalia Sanctions Committee and its Monitoring Group to include the measures against Eritrea. The resolution also demanded that Eritrea acknowledge its border dispute with Djibouti and engage in talks, as well as share information on missing Djibouti soldiers apparently taken prisoner by Eritrea.

Following the signing of a peace agreement on 9 July 2018, ending a 20-year conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the subsequent signing of the Agreement on Peace, Friendship and Comprehensive Cooperation on 16 September 2018 by the two countries, the Council began considering the possibility of lifting the Eritrea sanctions. On 6 September 2018 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, Saudi Arabia. On 14 November 2018, in resolution 2444, the Council lifted the arms embargo, travel bans, asset freezes and targeted sanctions on Eritrea. The resolution also said that, notwithstanding the lifting of sanctions on Eritrea, the Council would continue monitoring the Djibouti-Eritrea relationship and asked the Secretary-General to report on the situation every six months. The next report is due on 15 August. 

Sanctions-Related Developments

The Chair of the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium), briefed the Council in consultations on 26 June. Along with the 120-day report, the current tension between the committee’s Panel of Experts and Somalia was discussed. At press time, the Panel of Experts had been unable to gain permission to make a formal visit to Somalia. The relationship between Somalia and the UN, complicated since the expulsion of former Special Representative Nicholas Haysom from Somalia in early 2019, remains challenging.

In compliance with resolution 2444, the UN Secretariat visited Somalia in the last week of June to prepare a technical assessment of the arms embargo. A report is due by 31 July, and Council members may discuss it in their August meetings. Somalia would like to see the embargo lifted. 

Key Issues and Options

The key immediate issue for the Council regarding Somalia is the urgency of adopting the electoral law, to allow enough time for preparations. The Council could adopt a presidential statement to encourage Somalia to act quickly in this regard. The Council president could also meet bilaterally with the Somali ambassador to underline the Council’s view on the importance and urgency of this matter.

The Council may reiterate previous calls, most recently in resolution 2444 of 14 November 2018, for Somalia and other member 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.

This is the first meeting on Somalia under the new schedule put in place through resolution 2461, which calls for reports every 90 days instead of every 120 days as in the past. The goal is to maintain attention on Somalia’s efforts to achieve political benchmarks.

Regarding the Djibouti-Eritrea situation, the Council will be interested in receiving an update on the most recent developments, and particularly in hearing whether the Secretary-General believes that progress has been achieved in the six months since his last report. The Council could issue a press statement acknowledging steps taken and calling for more actions from the parties as they move towards normalisation. 

Council and Wider Dynamics

In the past, including during last year’s negotiations on resolution 2431, renewing the authorisation of AMISOM, positions on the pace of troop reductions reflected the underlying divisions among Council members. This happened again in May. AU Special Representative for Somalia and head of AMISOM Francisco Caetano José Madeira stated during the briefing on 22 May that the AU is opposed to any AMISOM drawdown at this point. The A3 supported this view during negotiations, cautioning against downsizing AMISOM prematurely on the basis that Somalia is not currently ready to take over greater security responsibilities. The A3 broke silence on a draft resolution, asserting that any drawdown would be a threat to Somalia and that any troop reductions should be based on a threat assessment to be undertaken beforehand.

The P3 (France, the UK and the US) supported reductions by the end of 2019, but other Council members, such as China, Kuwait and Russia, expressed support for the A3/AU position as they felt the views of the region should be respected. Compromise eventually led to the resolution that was adopted.

The AU continues to press the Council to do more to ensure predictable and sustainable funding for AMISOM. In addition to the logistical support provided through the UN Support Office in Somalia and voluntary contributions from the UN trust fund for AMISOM, several Council members have been willing to consider providing direct funding to AMISOM through UN assessed contributions. The US, however, remains opposed to the idea.

The UK is the penholder on Somalia. 

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Security Council Resolutions
31 May 2019S/RES/2472 S/RES/2472 (31 May 2019) renewed the authorisation of AMISOM until 31 May 2020 and authorised reductions to achieve a maximum level of 19,626 uniformed AMISOM personnel by 28 February 2020.
27 March 2019S/RES/2461 This was a resolution renewing the mandate of UNSOM until 31 March 2020.
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.
30 July 2018S/RES/2431 This was a resolution renewing the mandate of AMISOM until 31 May 2019.
23 December 2009S/RES/1907 This resolution imposed an arms embargo and targeted sanctions against Eritrea.
Security Council Presidential Statements
18 May 2009S/PRST/2009/15 This presidential statement called on the Sanctions Monitoring Group to investigate reports that Eritrea had supplied arms to insurgent groups in Somalia. (It also condemned the renewed fighting by Al-Shabaab and other extremists in Somalia and demanded an immediate end to the violence.)
Secretary-General’s Reports
15 May 2019S/2019/393 This was on Somalia.
18 February 2019S/2019/154 This was a letter from the Secretary-General to the president of the Council on Eritrea-Djibouti relations.
Security Council Letters
10 May 2019S/2019/388 This contained the findings and recommendations of the AU-UN joint review of AMISOM’s mandate.
Security Council Meeting Records
22 May 2019S/PV.8533 This was a briefing on the situation in Somalia.
Security Council Press Statements
15 July 2019SC/13883 SC/13883 (15 July 2019) condemned the terrorist attack in Kismayo on 12 July 2019.

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