Expected Council Action
In August, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), which expires on 31 August. Earlier in the month, the Council is due to receive a briefing from Special Representative and head of UNSOM James Swan and hold consultations on Somalia.
The authorisation for the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) expires on 28 February 2021.
Key Recent Developments
The Council is set to renew UNSOM’s mandate after two technical rollovers on 30 March and 22 June. While initial negotiations began among the permanent members in March, it became clear by mid-month that the Council’s ability to conduct further negotiations would be limited by measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Member states agreed that the best way forward, under the circumstances, would be a technical rollover of UNSOM’s mandate, which in Council practice entails the adoption of a largely unchanged mandate for a short period. Through a written procedure agreed to by Council members on 27 March, UNSOM’s mandate was renewed on 30 March until 30 June by the adoption of resolution 2516.
On 22 June, with the COVID-19 special measures still in place, Council members once again renewed the mandate of UNSOM through a technical rollover, until 31 August. Resolution 2527 passed unanimously through the written procedure agreed in March. It seems the Council wished to consider UNSOM’s mandate after knowing more about the Federal Government of Somalia’s plans for upcoming elections. The expectation was that the Council would determine how UNSOM can best provide strategic support and advice to facilitate the electoral process and adjust the mission’s mandate as appropriate, at a time when the Somalia government was further along in its planning for the elections.
After several weeks of delays, the chair of the National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC), Halima Ismail, announced in a meeting with the Federal Parliament on 27 June that upcoming elections should be postponed because of logistical, financial, and COVID-19 challenges. At the heart of the issue is the oft-repeated promise by Somali high-level officials that elections would be one person, one vote. Previously, Somalia had used a clan-based system of indirect voting. In this model, lawmakers are voted in by clan elders, and then those lawmakers elect a president from a group of selected contenders. It was thought that elections in 2020 or 2021 could instead be based on universal suffrage and mark a significant step forward for Somalis. In her statement on 27 June, Ismail said that one person-one vote elections would take at least until March 2021 to organise and possibly longer if using biometric registration. (Before the announcement, parliamentary elections were tentatively scheduled for 27 November, and the president’s term ends on 8 February 2021).
The suggestion that elections could be delayed has set off a political dispute inside Somalia. Some members of parliament and the NIEC continue to support universal suffrage and therefore have supported the NIEC’s recommendation to delay elections. However, Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said on 9 July that there could be no delay in holding elections. This signalled a possible rift with his former close ally President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo”, who has repeatedly called for universal suffrage. Just a few weeks later, on 25 July, Khaire was removed from his position through a no-confidence vote in Somalia’s parliament. According to the speaker of parliament, Khaire was removed due to the government’s inability to “fulfill its national promises, including holding one man-one vote elections, and establishing a national security force capable of tightening the security”. Khaire’s removal was criticised by both the EU and the United States. It is now up to Farmajo to appoint a new prime minister or establish a unity government until elections are held.
Additionally, the recommendation to postpone elections was rejected by the presidents of Somalia’s federal states (Said Abdullahi Deni of Puntland, Ahmed Mohamed Madobe of Jubaland, Ahmed Abdi Karie Qoorqoor of Galmudug, Abdiaziz Laftagareen of South West and Mohamed Abdi Ware of Hirshabelle). They released a joint statement on 12 July calling for modified indirect elections that could be held sooner than the sought-after universal suffrage elections. With this statement, the leaders made it clear that they oppose any delay in elections and are willing to sacrifice universal suffrage, at least in the short term. On 16 July, the speaker of the Lower House of Parliament announced his oppostition to the clan-based model, further throwing into question the road ahead for Somalia’s elections.
A series of meetings between federal states’ presidents and the Federal Government of Somalia to discuss elections and other agenda items took place during the week of 20 July. This marks the first meeting between Farmajo and the presidents of the federal member states in over a year. On 22 July it was announced that the stakeholders had agreed to nominate a technical working group that would design a plan to hold “timely” elections. Somalia’s leaders are expected to reconvene on 15 August.
Somalia continues to face a number of long-standing threats and challenges, along with newer ones. These include COVID-19, with over 3,100 cases in Somalia as of 28 July; the worst locust outbreak in over 25 years; heavy floods that have displaced around 500,000 people; and Al-Shabaab, the Somali terrorist group aligned with al-Qaeda, which continues to orchestrate attacks. On 13 July Al-Shabaab attempted to assassinate General Odowaa Yusuf Rageh, the head of the Somalia National Army, in a suicide car bomb attack in Mogadishu. Rageh survived, but one civilian was killed and several others wounded.
On 9 June, Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium), chair of the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee, briefed Council members in an open videoconference on the committee’s activities from 28 February to 9 June. He highlighted Al-Shabaab’s increased use of improvised explosive devices in Somalia and their devastating effect.
Human Rights Developments
During the 43rd session, the President of the Human Rights Council (HRC) appointed Isha Dyfan as the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia. The HRC renewed the mandate of the independent expert for a year in resolution 42/33.
Key Issues and Options
Conversations about Somalia, and by extension the future of the UN’s role in Somalia, are dominated by the possibility of Somalia’s first one person-one vote elections. Council members want to consider how UNSOM can best continue to provide strategic support and advice to the Federal Government of Somalia and AMISOM during this critical and potentially unstable period.
In his latest report, the Secretary-General expressed concern that the relationship between the Federal Government of Somalia and some of its states remains poor. Council members may echo this concern in their statements and could include calls for better cooperation in future resolutions, presidential or press statements.
Council members are generally united in their belief that the upcoming elections are important for Somalia. Many Council member states have repeatedly stressed the need for one person-one vote elections. This puts them at odds with some of the current statements coming out of Somalia. In the August meeting, these divisions are likely to become stark: Council dynamics could be shaped by this tension between the desire to push for stronger development of democratic practices and respect for traditions and practicality, with Somali political stakeholders themselves remaining divided on these issues.
Council members often emphasise that they view Somalia as being at a historical turning point, both politically and in its reform and strengthening of the security sector. Members consistently stress the need for better relationships between the Federal Government of Somalia and Somali federal states, something that remains challenging and has periodic flare-ups. Member states are likely to voice the need for reconciliation in their statements.
The UK is the penholder on Somalia. Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium) is Chair of the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee.
UN Documents on Somalia
|Security Council Resolutions|
|22 June 2020S/RES/2527||This renewed the mandate of UNSOM until 31 August 2020 through a technical rollover.|
|29 May 2020S/RES/2520||This resolution renewed the AMISOM authorisation until 28 February 2021.|
|30 March 2020S/RES/2516||This resolution renewed the mandate for UNSOM until 30 June.|
|13 May 2020S/2020/398||This was a report on the activities of UNSOM.|
|Security Council Letters|
|23 June 2020S/2020/573||This was the adoption of resolution 2527.|
|11 June 2020S/2020/529||This was a copy of the 9 June briefing provided by Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium) in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992), concerning Somalia.|
|29 May 2020S/2020/466||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. It also contained a statement from Somalia.|
|31 March 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.|