Expected Council Action
In November, the Security Council is likely to renew certain elements of the Somalia sanctions regime that will expire on 15 November. Additionally, the Council is expected to hold a meeting on the implementation of the mandates of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) with briefings likely from the heads of the two missions, James Swan and Francisco Madeira, respectively. The Council is also due to receive a report from the Secretary-General on the situation regarding piracy and armed robbery at sea. Authorisations for states and regional organisations in the fight against piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia expire on 4 December.
The authorisation for AMISOM expires on 28 February 2021. The mandate of UNSOM expires on 31 August 2021.
Key Recent Developments
On 27 June, the chair of the Somali National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC), Halima Ismail Ibrahim, advised the Federal Parliament that upcoming elections should be postponed because of logistical, financial and COVID-19 challenges. This led to a series of discussions and disagreements amongst the Federal Government of Somalia, the federal member states and Somali politicians. At the heart of the issue is the oft-repeated promise by Somali high-level officials that the next elections would be one person, one vote instead of the current clan-based system of indirect voting. The question for Somalia was whether to hold elections close to the time frame outlined in the Somali constitution or to honour the promise of direct voting, which would entail a delay. (The Constitution requires that parliamentary elections must be held every four years, and the last elections were held in 2016.)
A compromise was eventually reached between the five leaders of the federal member states and President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo”. Parliament approved the compromise on 26 September, as a result of which elections will be held under a modified indirect system to align with the previously approved electoral calendar. The system remains clan-based (with clans’ delegates choosing the members of the lower house of parliament, which in turn will choose the president), but there will be more electors taking part in parliamentary elections than ever before: 27,775 delegates from Somalia’s clans, almost twice as many as in the previous election. As per the new agreement, which was announced by the NIEC on 2 October, Somalia will hold legislative elections from 1 to 27 December and presidential elections on 8 February 2021. As part of the compromise, President Farmajo and the presidents of five federal states also agreed to form a 21-member dispute resolution committee to address any electoral issues that may arise during the election periods.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 45th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) considered the report (A/HRC/45/52) of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Isha Dyfan. On a positive note, Dyfan highlighted the commitment of the Somali government to improving the situation of human rights in the country by protecting civilians from harm in a manner that respects international humanitarian law and human rights and to strengthen accountability and the rule of law. Dyfan emphasised in the report, however, that despite the Somali government’s efforts, “significant gaps” remain.
On 6 October, the HRC adopted without a vote resolution 45/27, renewing the mandate of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia for a year. Resolution 45/27 also emphasised the Security Council’s resolution 1325 and subsequent Council resolutions regarding women, peace and security, and it recognised the Somali cabinet’s endorsement of a Somali women’s charter to “strengthen women’s participation in peacebuilding and socio-economic progress in the stabilization and rebuilding efforts for Somalia”.
The Council initially imposed a comprehensive arms embargo on Somalia on 23 January 1992 with the adoption of resolution 733 and established a sanctions committee through resolution 751 of 24 April 1992. The authorisation of the sanctions regime remains open-ended, but there are a few elements that must be renewed each year. On 15 November 2019, the Council adopted resolution 2498, renewing 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 Council must also renew the mandate of the Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts every year.
The latest periodic briefing by the chair of the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee took place on 28 October. The previous briefing by then-chair Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium) on 9 June emphasised that the terrorist group 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.
Key Issues and Options
Council members are focused on the critical role upcoming elections could have in the continued progress of Somalia toward a more stable future. Council members want the UN presence in Somalia to support elections in the best way possible. They will want to hear from Swan, Special Representative and head of UNSOM, how the Council can best continue to support Somali stakeholders during this significant and potentially unstable period. Similarly, Council members have been urging dialogue between the Somali Federal Government and its member states.
On 10 January 2021, the Council is due to receive an independent technical assessment on AMISOM and UNSOM. This assessment could provide some ideas for making adjustments to the missions’ priorities. Council members may want to know more about progress in the technical assessment, which seems to be behind schedule.
On sanctions, Council members generally agree on the need to renew the elements of resolution 2498. However, the differences that were apparent during last year’s resolution negotiations, which led China, Equatorial Guinea and Russia to abstain, remain. In their statements after the vote, China and Russia reiterated their belief that the relationship between Djibouti and Eritrea is a bilateral one that does not merit mention in a Council resolution. (Until 2018, sanctions on Eritrea related to its dispute with Djibouti were part of the Somalia sanctions regime. Language regarding Djibouti-Eritrea reconciliation continues to be included in these texts every year.) China and Russia furthermore did not approve of the inclusion of some human rights language, saying that the HRC would be a more appropriate venue for considering such issues.
Preparations for upcoming elections in Somalia will continue to be at the forefront of Council members’ concerns. Several member states have repeatedly stressed the need for direct elections, but in the wake of political developments and challenges related to coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, they softened their language. For Council members, it is a delicate balance between wanting to push for a stronger development of democratic practices, respect for the country’s traditions, and what can practically be achieved in Somalia given technical, security, and logistical concerns.
The upcoming report of the independent technical assessment may illuminate differences between members on the future of AMISOM that could come to a head in 2021. Some members see AMISOM as a critical bulwark against Al-Shabaab and believe that removing its authorisation could create a destabilising security vacuum. Meanwhile, as one of the main financial sponsors of AMISOM, EU Council members are eager to see tangible improvement on the ground, with Somali national forces taking the lead. That would eventually create an environment for AMISOM to withdraw.
The UK is the penholder on Somalia. Ambassador Philippe Kridelka (Belgium) chairs the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SOMALIA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|28 August 2020S/RES/2540||This resolution extended UNSOM’s mandate for 12 months until 31 August 2021.|
|29 May 2020S/RES/2520||This resolution renewed the AMISOM authorisation until 28 February 2021.|
|4 December 2019S/RES/2500||This was a resolution renewing the counter-piracy measures off the coast of Somalia for 12 months.|
|15 November 2019S/RES/2498||This extended various elements of the Somalia sanctions regime until 15 November 2020.|
|Security Council Letters|
|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.|