March 2020 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2020
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AFRICA

Somalia

Expected Council Action

In March, the Security Council is due to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), which expires on 31 March. The authorisation of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) expires on 31 May and the Security Council’s Somalia sanctions regime expires on 15 November. 

Key Recent Developments

Somalia’s lower house of parliament passing an electoral law on 28 December 2019 is one of the first steps in organising elections for late 2020 or early 2021. These long-awaited elections are seen as a critical turning point for the future of Somalia. Somalia’s international partners—which include AMISOM, Australia, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, the EU, Finland, Germany, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Italy, Kenya, the Netherlands, Norway, Sudan, Sweden, Turkey, the UK, the UN and the US—released a communiqué on 28 January reaffirming their commitment to supporting preparations for federal elections and urging parliament to take action on the electoral law. On 2 February, the upper house of Somalia’s parliament approved the law. On 21 February, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” signed the electoral bill into law.

The Council was last briefed on Somalia on 24 February. 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; and Dan Smith, Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, briefed. Briefers and Council members mentioned that 2020 is a pivotal year for Somalia. While noting positive actions, some of them highlighted the lack of dialogue among the many stakeholders. Swan urged bold action so that progress can be made on Somalia’s 2020 priorities, something echoed by many Council members. These priorities range from development goals, such as continued work toward debt relief, to political ones, such as holding elections and finalising the federal constitution. Madeira urged international support for Somalia’s electoral and security efforts. Smith focused on the negative impact of climate change on peace operations in Somalia.

As the Secretary-General’s 13 February report on UNSOM stated, the security situation in Somalia remains fragile. The report concludes by recommending the renewal of UNSOM’s mandate for 12 months.

On the margins of the 33rd African Union Summit, Farmajo and Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi held a meeting on 11 February in the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s office. It was their first meeting, as the last reconciliation talks between the Somali government and Somaliland took place in 2015, before either of them took office. Previous attempts to arrange a face-to-face meeting between representatives from both sides were unsuccessful due to cancellations and questions of political will. There are hopes that this meeting signals positive developments to come.

Somalia’s humanitarian situation remains troubling. In December 2019, approximately 2.3 million people in communities most affected by acute food and nutrition insecurity in Somalia were receiving assistance, according to the World Food Programme. Somalia is also experiencing its worst locust infestation in 25 years. The locusts have also caused problems in other countries throughout the Horn of Africa. Over the past four months, Somalia has seen hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmland and plants destroyed, bringing worries that this will also have a devastating impact on future harvests; in early February, the government declared a national emergency.

Sanctions-Related Developments

The 751 Somalia Sanctions regime was renewed on 15 November 2019. Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium), chair of the sanctions committee, visited Somalia at the end of January. Accompanying Belgium were representatives from committee members China, Estonia, France, Germany, Russia, and United Kingdom. Trip participants were able to meet with Somalia’s president, prime minister, and foreign minister for what were described as fruitful discussions. Somali representatives shared their views on how to improve the relationship with the Panel of Experts. This is critical as 2019 was characterised by a tense relationship between Somalia and the UN, with the Panel of Experts in particular. During its last mandate period, the Panel of Experts was unable to gain permission to make a formal visit to Somalia.

Key Issues and Options

In planning for UNSOM’s mandate renewal, there are several items for Council members to consider. First of all, last year’s mandate renewal emphasised the need for Somalia to address the slow progress in the implementation of its political priorities—such as the constitutional review process, preparations for elections in 2020-2021, and further defining the relationship between the federal government and the states—as well as the transition plan and the national security architecture. Given the lack of progress, member states are likely to consider how best to encourage action when renewing the mandate.

Additionally, Council members will be looking at how well UNSOM has continued to provide strategic support and advice to the Federal Government of Somalia and AMISOM on peacebuilding and state-building in the areas of governance, security sector reform and rule of law, development of a federal system, constitutional review, and coordination of international donor support. Resolution 2461 also called on Somalia and South West State to address allegations of human rights violations and abuses prior to the South West State elections. Council members will want to see if that call was answered and whether the continued violations and abuses of human rights in Somalia–which resolution 2461 condemned–have abated.

While negotiating UNSOM’s renewal, members are likely to begin considering how to renew AMISOM’s mandate in May. That may be a more difficult negotiation process due to divergent views among troop-contributing countries, Council member states, and Somalia about the size and strength of AMISOM in the future.

Council and Wider Dynamics

In general, Council members hold similar positions on Somalia. However, mandate renewals can be difficult because of divisions about the best way to encourage change and progress in Somalia. For example, Council members 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. Resolution 2472 set out a compromise whereby it decided to reduce “uniformed AMISOM personnel by 1000 to a maximum level of 19,626, by 28 February 2020”.

During negotiations a year ago, Council members agreed to maintain the core mandate for UNSOM, and indications are that they are likely to do so again. Points of contention included an operative clause on the adverse effects of climate change, adding to climate and security language that was in the preambular part of the 2018 UNSOM mandate renewal. The new language in last year’s renewal called on Somalia to consider the adverse implications of climate change, other ecological changes, and natural disasters, among other factors, by undertaking such actions as risk assessments and risk management strategies relating to these factors. It also requested that the Secretary-General provide information about such assessments in his reporting. While climate and security language has increasingly been incorporated into Council outcomes over the past two years, the role of the Council regarding this issue remains politically sensitive to some members. It is unclear in what form these references will survive another round of mandate negotiations.

Resolution 2461 called for periodic threat assessments, of which one took place during the mandate’s 12 months. Some members were expecting multiple assessments to take place during the mandate, and so may criticise that there was only one. There may also be differences between member states on how to refer to electoral preparations. Some may highlight the lack of progress as a point of concern while others will likely consider it an internal problem that is not within the realm of the Security Council to address.

The UK is the penholder on Somalia. Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium) chairs the 751 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.
Secretary-General’s Reports
13 February 2020S/2020/121 The report provided updates on the implementation and mandates of UNSOM and UNSOS between 5 November 2019 to 4 February 2020.
Security Council Meeting Records
24 February 2020S/PV.8731 This meeting discussed the situation in Somalia and the latest report, covering 5 November 2019 to 4 February 2020.
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.