May 2020 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 April 2020
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Expected Council Action

In May, the Council is expected to renew its authorisation of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), due to expire on 31 May. Before that, the Council is scheduled to be briefed on the Secretary-General’s report on the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). The mandate for UNSOM expires on 30 June.

Key Recent Developments

The Council was initially set to renew UNSOM’s mandate on 25 March. Because of the impossibility of holding physical meetings given measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, members agreed on a technical rollover of the mandate. Through a written procedure elaborated and agreed to by Council members in late March, on 30 March the Council adopted resolution 2516, renewing the mandate until 30 June. Council members wanted to postpone more substantive discussions on UNSOM until the Council’s interim working methods were more established as a number of detailed discussions are necessary on how UNSOM can best continue to provide strategic support and advice to the Federal Government of Somalia and AMISOM, especially ahead of proposed elections.

In Somalia, a situation that remains volatile has been complicated by humanitarian problems. Since late 2019, Somalia, along with much of East Africa, has endured the worst locust outbreak in 70 years. Many organisations, including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), have warned that the impact on food crops could be devastating and long-lasting. A second, larger wave is expected in June. The FAO says that a swarm of locusts the size of one square kilometre can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.

Additionally, Somalia is trying to address the challenges of COVID-19, having recorded its first case in mid-March. At the time of writing, the number of reported cases stands at approximately 440, with 23 deaths. At least four healthcare workers have been infected. On 4 April, the UN confirmed that an international employee of a private company operating under a UN contract was diagnosed, as well. Schools and universities are closed, all flights in and out of the country have been cancelled, and there is a night-time curfew in Mogadishu, the capital. Humanitarian cargo flights may continue, but must receive permission a day before. Protests took place in April over the closure of several mosques. Many are concerned about Somalia’s refugee camps, where basic necessities like soap and water are scarce. In response, the World Health Organization (WHO) began establishing 1,250 active surveillance sites staffed by more than 1,500 health workers and community volunteers for finding those infected, contact tracing and testing. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNSOM, James Swan, released a press statement on 31 March stressing the UN’s support for Somalia during the pandemic, and reiterated the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire.

In March, tensions increased between Somalia and Kenya over territory with access to the Indian Ocean. A build-up of Somali security forces in the Gedo region of Jubaland, Somalia led to clashes between Somali federal forces and militias loyal to the controversially-reelected president of Jubaland, Ahmed Mohamed Islam, who seems to be supported by Kenya. On 2 March the skirmishes that spilled over the border into Kenya caused some civilians to flee. On 5 March, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke via telephone to try to calm tensions while also committing to improving border security and ties between the nations. UNSOM and international partners released a press statement calling on all actors to exercise restraint. They also reiterated the importance of cooperation between Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Since then, the situation has been calm but unpredictable. The International Court of Justice is scheduled to hear arguments about the border between Somalia and Kenya in June in a case that centres on access to the Indian Ocean, with implications for control of natural resources.

Sanctions-Related Developments

During this period, one informal meeting of the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee was held. On 29 April a representative from the UN Mine Action Service briefed the Committee on improvised explosive devices in Somalia. There may be a meeting in May to discuss the midterm report of the Panel of Experts.

Key Issues and Options

A crucial question the Council has to answer is how AMISOM retains the capability and means to strengthen and assist the Somali forces so that these forces can progressively take the lead in providing security while avoiding a premature handover of security responsibilities. Last year’s negotiations focused on the desire of some to reduce AMISOM’s troop ceiling. Ultimately, resolution 2472 decided to reduce the level of uniformed AMISOM personnel by 1,000 to a maximum level of 19,626 by 28 February 2020. This was done with the caveat that the Council could change its mind if the situation in Somalia so warranted. As of April, the troop numbers had been reduced, though the process was behind schedule.

As with UNSOM in March, a technical rollover may be a possibility this month because of the complexity of discussions in changing AMISOM’s mandate. This is not the first time AMISOM’s renewal has been delayed because of forces beyond its control. In October 2012, following a three-day UN shutdown due to Hurricane Sandy, the Council in resolution 2072 rolled over the mandate of the AMISOM until 11 November 2012, “recognizing in those exceptional circumstances the need for a short extension of the mandate”.

Council Dynamics

In the past, including during last year’s negotiations on resolution 2472, positions taken on the pace of troop reductions reflected the underlying divisions among Council members.

In 2019 the P3 (France, the UK and the US) were supportive of the troop reduction suggested in a 2019 joint assessment by a combined AU-UN team. In line with the AU position, the A3 at that time (Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea and South Africa) opposed any drawdown on the basis that Somalia was not ready to take over more security responsibilities at that juncture. Many who now oppose a drawdown say that it must be guided by the situation on the ground, which they regard as not currently conducive. Other Council members, such as China and Russia, have expressed support for A3/AU position, as they felt the views of the region should be respected. Several Council members did not hold strong views and were ready to support a unified Council position. Positions do not seem to have changed in the year that has passed.

The AU continues to press the Council to do more to ensure predictable and sustainable funding for AMISOM. In addition to the logistical support given through the UN Support Office in Somalia and the voluntary contributions provided through 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.

Another point of contention for any draft resolution is language on climate change. Several member states believe it is important to retain or even strengthen language about climate security for Somalia, which in their opinion is experiencing the impact of climate change acutely. The US remains an obstacle to any inclusion of climate change language.

The UK is the penholder on Somalia.

Security Council Resolutions
30 March 2020S/RES/2516 This resolution renewed the mandate for UNSOM until 30 June.
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.
31 October 2012S/RES/2072 The Council adopted a 7-day technical rollover of AMISOM.
Security Council Letters
6 April 2020S/2020/266 This letter from the president of the Security Council contained both the draft resolution and letters received in reply from Council members indicating their national positions on the draft resolution.
2 April 2020S/2020/273 This letter from the Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic on Security Council explained the working methods for April 2020.
30 March 2020S/2020/247 The announcement of the conclusion of the written voting procedure on resolution 2516.
27 March 2020S/2020/253 a letter from the Permanent Representative of China on the written voting procedure and other provisional procedural measures.