Expected Council Action
In December, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing counter-piracy measures off the coast of Somalia which expire on 6 December.
The mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) expires on 31 March 2020. The Council authorisation of 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. The final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the Somalia Sanctions Committee, released on 1 November, asserts that Al-Shabaab remains a potent threat to regional peace and security and is responsible for many attacks against civilians in violation of international humanitarian law. During the reporting period, it has forcibly recruited and abducted hundreds of children as well as targeting parliamentarians, government officials, and humanitarian workers. The panel found that Al-Shabaab employed improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to kill and injure civilians in internally displaced persons camps, restaurants, marketplaces, shopping centres, government offices and hotels.
The security situation, along with droughts and other climate-related issues, continues to be a driver of displacement. Severe flooding since 21 October has affected more than 547,000 people, of whom 370,000 have been displaced from their homes, according to the UNHCR-led Protection and Return Monitoring Network. Vast farmland and crops were also destroyed in the floods triggered by heavier than usual Deyr seasonal rains.
On sanctions, in resolution 2498 of 15 November, the Council renewed for one year 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. The resolution also renewed the mandate of the Somalia Panel of Experts until 15 December 2020. China, Equatorial Guinea and Russia abstained.
A new element in the sanctions regime concerns explosives imported to Somalia for civilian purposes. States are to prevent the direct or indirect sale to Somalia of certain chemicals—used by Al-Shabaab to manufacture home-made explosives—if there is sufficient evidence or significant risk that they may be used to manufacture IEDs in Somalia. In addition, the delivery of such chemicals more generally will be subject to prior notification to the committee.
Resolution 2498 also addresses Somalia’s lack of cooperation with the committee over the last year, including by not granting visas to all its members. The government 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, and takes issue with the composition of the Panel of Experts and some of its findings. The resolution expresses ‘serious concern’ over the lack of Somali cooperation with a Security Council-mandated panel and urges Somalia to cooperate fully, including by setting dates for a country visit by the panel “without further delay”.
On reconciliation efforts between Djibouti and Eritrea, the resolution requests the Secretary-General to update the Council on any developments on this issue by 31 July 2020. (Resolution 2444 of 14 November 2018 lifted sanctions on Eritrea and, at the same time, requested the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council by 15 February 2019 and every six months thereafter on efforts by the parties peacefully to settle their border dispute and their dispute on the whereabouts of Djiboutian combatants missing in action.)
The Council was last briefed on Somalia on 21 November. Special Representative and head of UNSOM James Swan, AU Special Representative for Somalia and head of AMISOM Francisco Caetano José Madeira, Chair of the Somali National Independent Electoral Commission Halima Ismail Ibrahim, and Executive Director of the Somalia Youth Development Network Osman Moallim briefed the Council. The briefing was followed by consultations. On 25 November, Council members issued a press statement, welcoming the commitment expressed by Somalia to ensure that the historic federal one-person-one-vote elections are held in late 2020/early 2021. They underlined that holding peaceful, inclusive, credible and transparent election will assist Somalia’s continued democratic development.
Women, Peace and Security
The Panel of Experts, in its final report, concludes that “sexual- and gender-based violence remained a persistent issue during the reporting period”, with women and girls facing the greatest risk. Such crimes include rape, gang rape, and abduction for forced marriage. The report elaborates that Somalia’s government institutions have “little capacity to record instances of, conduct investigations into and prosecute the perpetrators of sexual violence” due to the ongoing conflict in the country, which further leads to a lack of faith by survivors in the formal justice system. The Panel of Experts reports 271 UN-verified cases of conflict-related sexual violence in 2018. The number includes violence against 250 girls, 20 women, and one boy. According to the latest annual Secretary-General’s report on conflict-related sexual violence, the UN verified cases of gang rape and rape committed by the Somali Police Forces (twelve girls and five women) and the Somali National Army (44 girls and one boy). Thirty-four cases of girls abducted for forced marriage and rape were attributed to Al-Shabaab members.
Key Issues and Options
The key immediate issue for the Council in December is renewing the counter-piracy measures.
Somalia’s lack of cooperation with the Sanctions Committee and its Panel of Experts is another issue. If Somalia continues to refuse to allow the Panel of Experts to visit, the Council may consider adopting a presidential or press statement focusing on this non-cooperation and urging Somalia’s implementation of its resolutions.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The negotiations over the renewal of sanctions and exemptions demonstrated unanimity over the main elements of the sanctions regime among Council members. Disagreements arose over other elements, however. Noting that sanctions on Eritrea were lifted last year, China and Russia stated in their explanation of vote that the dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea is a bilateral one that does not require the attention of the Council. Equatorial Guinea also said that issues unrelated to Somalia should not be covered in the resolution. All three countries abstained as a result.
There was also disagreement about a German proposal requesting the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and the Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict to share relevant information with the committee, and inviting the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to do so as well, as appropriate. While this proposal enjoyed the support of most Council members, both China and Russia took issue with a reference in the resolution to the committee’s receiving human rights information, though eventually this passage was included in resolution 2498.
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|
|15 November 2019S/RES/2498||This extended various elements of the Somalia sanctions regime until 15 November 2020.|
|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.|
|6 November 2018S/RES/2442||This was a resolution concerning piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia.|
|15 August 2019S/2019/661||Most recent Secretary-General report on Somalia and UNSOM.|
|30 September 2019S/2019/280||This was the latest annual report on conflict-related sexual violence.|
|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|
|21 November 2019S/PV.8671||This was the briefing by Special Representative and head of UNSOM James Swan.|
|15 November 2019S/PV.8665||This was the meeting in which resolution 2498 renewing elements of the Somalia sanctions regime were adopted.|
|25 October 2019S/PV.8647||This was a briefing by the Chair of the Somalia Committee, Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium).|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|1 November 2019S/2019/858||This was the final report of the Panel of Experts on Somalia.|