Expected Council Action
In February, the Security Council will have a briefing and consultations on the Secretary-General’s most recent report on the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and the situation in Somalia. It will also receive a briefing in consultations from Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium), chair of the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee, on his recent visit to the region. The mandate of UNSOM expires on 31 March and the authorisation of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) expires on 31 May. The Security Council Somalia sanctions regime expires on 15 November 2020.
Key Recent Developments
The security situation in Somalia is fragile. According to the 1 November 2019 final report of the Panel of Experts of the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee, the terrorist group Al-Shabaab remains a potent threat to regional peace and security and is responsible for many attacks against civilians. The report said that Al-Shabaab has forcibly recruited and abducted hundreds of children; targeted government officials, parliamentarians and humanitarian workers during the reporting period; and employed improvised explosive devices to kill and injure civilians in internally displaced persons camps, restaurants, marketplaces, shopping centres, government offices and hotels. The Secretary-General’s 15 November 2019 report on UNSOM reached similar conclusions.
The Council was last briefed on Somalia on 21 November 2019. James Swan, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNSOM; Francisco Caetano José Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia and head of AMISOM; Halima Ismail Ibrahim, chair of the National Independent Electoral Commission of Somalia; and Osman Moallim, executive director of Somalia Youth Development Network, briefed.
The meeting focused largely on the elections that may be held in late 2020 or early 2021. If successful, these would be Somalia’s first free and fair elections since 1969. Swan emphasised the “critical importance of Parliament passing the electoral code and adopting amendments to the law on political parties before the end of December” and that “[a]ny delay in that timeline puts the 2020 electoral calendar at risk”. Council members issued a press statement on 25 November calling on all stakeholders in Somalia to engage constructively to ensure that elections take place.
On 28 December 2019, Somalia’s lower house of parliament passed the long-awaited electoral law. However, it will not go into effect until it has also been passed by the upper chamber and signed by the president. At press time, neither had occurred. Only after the law goes into effect can parties and candidates register for the elections.
In December 2019, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2500 renewing the counter-piracy measures off the coast of Somalia. On 29 December, Council members issued a press statement condemning a deadly terrorist attack on 28 December at the Ex-control Afgooye Junction in Mogadishu.
At the February meeting, the Council will consider the Secretary-General’s latest report, due by 9 February, which should include updates on UNSOM’s progress towards achieving key political benchmarks and ongoing efforts to increase the capability of the Somali security forces.
The 751 Somalia Sanctions regime was renewed on 15 November 2019. It consolidated all the elements of the arms embargo and its partial lifting for Somali security forces, including exceptions and applicable humanitarian exemptions, into one text. Previously, elements had been spread across several resolutions. While 2019 was characterised by a tense relationship between Somalia and the UN—during its last mandate period, the Panel of Experts was unable to gain permission to make a formal visit to Somalia—the appointment of a new coordinator of the panel may help foster a new relationship. Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium), chair of the sanctions committee, visited Somalia in that capacity at the end of January.
Key Issues and Options
Council members’ immediate concern is likely to centre around the possible elections in late 2020 or early 2021 and preparatory efforts that have been made. The Council has been urging Somalia to act swiftly. Council members could decide to issue another press statement on the subject after the meeting, as was done in November 2019.
Additionally, given the ongoing difficulties with the Somalia sanctions regime, Council members could decide during the meeting 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. Another ongoing development is the withdrawal, reached through a compromise in resolution 2472, of 1,000 AMISOM troops by the end of February. It is unclear how that is proceeding, and member states are likely to ask for more information. With mandate renewals coming up in the next six months, member states will begin to assess the situation on the ground and want information on how the Council should proceed.
Council and Wider Dynamics
While the issue of Somalia has enjoyed general agreement from all Council members, there are some divisions on the best way to encourage change. In particular, differences remain about the arms embargo. Somalia maintains that the arms embargo should be amended to allow it to import heavy weapons without authorisation from the sanctions committee, and it takes issue with the composition of the Panel of Experts and some of its findings. France, Germany, the UK and the US criticised Somalia during a 25 October 2019 briefing for not allowing the panel’s visit. Others have taken a more conciliatory tone in the past and emphasised the need to respect Somali sovereignty.
Council members also differ on the pace of troop withdrawal. The three African members of the Council in 2019 supported the AU position that an AMISOM drawdown was premature and that Somalia was not ready to take on greater security responsibilities. Their position was supported by China and Russia. Meanwhile, France, the UK and the US supported reductions by the end of 2019. Members are likely to reiterate their positions in this meeting, especially given the upcoming troop withdrawal deadline.
The UK is the penholder on Somalia. Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium) is Chair of the Sanctions Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia.
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.|
|15 November 2019S/2019/884||This report covered developments in Somalia from 5 August to 4 November 2019.|
|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).|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|29 December 2019SC/14067||Security Council members issued this press statement to condemn the deadly terrorist attack of 28 December 2019 at the Ex-control Afgoye Junction in Mogadishu.|
|25 November 2019SC/14034||In this press statement Council members focused on efforts needed to have free, fair, and inclusive elections in Somalia.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|1 November 2019S/2019/858||This was the final report of the Panel of Experts on Somalia.|