Expected Council Action
In November, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution on the Somalia 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, all of which expire on 15 November. The mandate review of the Somalia Panel of Experts, which expires on 15 December, is also due in November.
Finally, there will be a briefing, followed by consultations, on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).
The mandate of UNSOM expires on 31 March 2020. The mandate authorising the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) expires on 31 May 2020.
Key Recent Developments
The armed group Al-Shabaab remains active and dangerous, carrying out attacks targeting civilians, government facilities and personnel, security forces, and international partners. On 30 September, the group attacked Baledogle, a military airbase located in Lower Shabelle region, about 60 miles from Mogadishu, currently used by the US to train Somali commandos. The attack was repelled and no injuries were reported. An Italian military convoy, a contingent of the EU training mission in Somalia, was attacked in Mogadishu on the same day, also without casualties. In response, the US stated that its forces carried out two airstrikes and engaged in an exchange of fire with militants, killing ten, in unspecified locations in the country.
Several Kenyan police officers were reportedly killed on 12 October when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb near Garissa on the Kenyan side of the Somali border. On 13 October, at least three mortar shells were fired at Mogadishu’s international airport compound, where several embassies and UNSOM headquarters are located, injuring at least seven people. Over 40 Al-Shabaab militants were killed in operations conducted by the Somali military in Kismayo and Hiran, on 7 and 19 October, respectively.
The security situation, along with droughts and other climate-related issues, continue to be a driver of displacement. According to OCHA’s 13 September assessment of humanitarian assistance in Somalia, submitted to the Somalia Sanctions Committee, 270,000 people were displaced between January and August 2019. The volatile security situation hampers the ability of humanitarian workers to provide assistance. In some districts, particularly in southern and central regions of Somalia, humanitarian access remains limited, due in part to insecurity along main supply routes. According to OCHA, in the absence of humanitarian assistance, up to 2.1 million people across Somalia will face severe hunger by December 2019. That would bring the total number of Somalis expected to be food insecure to 6.3 million by year’s end. In light of this situation, OCHA has recommended that the Council extend the humanitarian exemption to the assets freeze imposed by the committee on individuals and entities.
The 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee met with a representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime on 3 October. One of the issues discussed was the ban on charcoal exports (discussed further below). The representative explained that Somali charcoal is in high demand because of its quality, particularly in the Gulf states.
The Chair of the committee, Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium), briefed the Council on 25 October on the committee’s recent activities. He emphasised the conclusions of OCHA’s 13 September humanitarian assessment, and also spoke about the 15 October briefing by the coordinator of the Panel of Experts assisting the committee, on the panel’s soon-to-be-published final report. The coordinator highlighted that Al-Shabaab continues to pose a threat to peace and security in the region and to violate international humanitarian law. The coordinator told the Committee that the panel had confirmed that Al-Shabaab is manufacturing homemade explosives while benefiting economically from a system of parallel taxation on virtually all trade in southern Somalia.
On the arms embargo, the coordinator assessed that it has been successful in keeping heavy arms out of the country. He also recommended that the arms embargo be streamlined and updated to reflect current counter-insurgency efforts, including enhanced oversight over commercial explosives used by Al-Shabaab to manufacture improvised explosive devices.
The charcoal ban, according to the coordinator, has not affected Al-Shabaab’s income in a critical way, as the group is not dependent on charcoal exports alone. In this context, the Committee also discussed how charcoal smugglers also smuggle other commodities and arms. As Al-Shabaab has other sources of revenue and is still profiting from charcoal domestically, the Panel of Experts suggested assessing the impact and utility of the charcoal ban. Finally, the coordinator recommended that the Council utilise targeted sanctions on violators of the sanctions regime, financiers of terrorism, violators of international humanitarian law and political spoilers.
Several Council members expressed support for the Panel of Experts’ work and noted that it was unacceptable that Somalia has not cooperated with the panel during the last year, most notably by not allowing the panel to visit Somalia.
Special Representative and head of UNSOM James Swan last briefed the Council on 21 August. He highlighted the dire humanitarian situation in Somalia and stressed that the security situation also remains a serious concern, mainly due to Al-Shabaab terrorist attacks. At the same time, he noted that Somali security forces, working with AMISOM and international partners, are making progress in recovering and stabilising areas near Mogadishu previously held by Al-Shabaab.
On Djibouti and Eritrea, the Secretary-General informed the Council in a short letter on 5 August that no significant progress has been made in resolving the dispute between the two states; this was his latest update as requested in resolution 2444, which lifted sanctions on Eritrea. He noted that Djibouti insists on resolving its border dispute with Eritrea through binding international arbitration, and remains concerned about the fate of its soldiers who are missing as a result of the border clashes between Djibouti and Eritrea from 10 to 12 June 2008. It further maintains that the unresolved issues with Eritrea constitute a threat to Djibouti itself and to international peace and security. Eritrea, for its part, maintains that the dispute should be resolved within a wider regional framework.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 42nd session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an interactive dialogue on 25 September with the independent expert on human rights in Somalia, Bahame Nyanduga, and considered his report (A/HRC/42/62). The report concluded that while terror attacks, insecurity, human rights violations, poverty and intercommunal conflicts persist, the country’s transition to a democratic state is advancing. On 27 September, the HRC adopted without a vote a resolution renewing the mandate of the independent expert for one year (A/HRC/RES/42/33). The resolution also called on the Federal Government of Somalia to take action in 22 specific areas, including making urgent progress towards settling outstanding constitutional issues; expediting the establishment of a national human rights commission; promoting the protection of all internally displaced persons; and ensuring safe, timely, sustained and unhindered access for humanitarian organisations.
Key Issues and Options
The key immediate issue for the Council in November is renewing the various sanctions measures and corresponding exemptions. The Council may take the opportunity to streamline sanctions language found in several resolutions into one comprehensive text.
The Council may use the opportunity to reiterate previous calls 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.
Regarding the Djibouti-Eritrea situation, the Council could issue a press statement in light of the lack of progress, encouraging the two sides to settle their dispute in accordance with one of the methods enumerated in Article 33 of the UN Charter.
Council and Wider Dynamics
While negotiations over the renewal of sanctions and exemptions had yet to commence at press time, there does not seem to be much disagreement over the renewal.
Somalia continues to be of the view that the arms embargo should be amended to allow it to import heavy weapons without authorisation from the sanctions committee. However, as the situation on the ground is not improving and given Somalia’s recent lack of engagement and cooperation with the committee and its Panel of Experts, several Council members seem content to renew the measures as they are.
The Council may choose to consolidate sanctions language into a single new text, as well as consider suggestions for adding new elements to the regime. Such attempts may prove difficult, however, as this exercise may lead to wider discussions about previously agreed language, which other Council members will want to avoid.
The UK is the penholder on Somalia and the US is the penholder on piracy. Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium) is the Chair of the Somalia Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SOMALIA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|31 May 2019S/RES/2472||This 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.|
|15 August 2019S/2019/661||Most recent Secretary-General report on Somalia and UNSOM.|
|Security Council Letters|
|2 August 2019S/2019/627||This was from the Secretary-General on developments towards the normalisation of relations between Djibouti and Eritrea.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|25 October 2019S/PV.8647||This was a briefing by the Chair of the Somalia Committee, Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium).|
|21 August 2019S/PV.8601||Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNSOM James Swan, briefed the Council on the latest UNSOM report (S/2019)661).|
|Security Council Letters|
|15 July 2019SC/13883||This press statement condemned the terrorist attack in Kismayo on 12 July 2019.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|7 October 2019S/2019/799||This contained the report of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator on the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Somalia.|