Expected Council Action
In August, the Council is scheduled to be briefed on the Secretary-General’s report on the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), which is due by 12 August. James Swan, Special Representative for Somalia and head of UNSOM, and Francisco Madeira, head of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), are expected to brief. Council members will also negotiate the renewal of UNSOM’s mandate, which expires on 31 August.
Key Recent Developments
Somalia continues its electoral process, following months of political turmoil around technical and organisational aspects. To bridge disagreements between the government and its federal member states, Somalia’s prime minister, Mohamed Hussein Roble, convened a consultative meeting between the federal government and its member states that concluded on 27 May. It resulted in the participants’ renewed commitment to the implementation of the 17 September 2020 Agreement on the conduct of elections and resolved several technical disagreements regarding the composition of the electoral management bodies, the selection of Somaliland representatives, the management of elections in the Gedo region of Jubaland, and technical modalities for holding the elections. A second consultative meeting held on 29 June determined the electoral calendar; the role of a Technical Election Support Team; and halved the registration fee for women candidates. With preparations for the elections progressing, Roble, appointed on 25 July a committee entrusted with working towards achieving the target of 30% female representation in parliament.
The polls for upper house elections were eventually scheduled to take place between 25 and 27 July, but postponed, reportedly due to delays in submitting candidates’ lists and in forming local committees to cast the ballots. Puntland was the only state positioned to commence elections for four contested upper house seats and opened the ballots on 29 July. The delay caused Roble to convene the National Consultative Forum, comprised of representatives from the federal government and the federal member states, urging to conduct the upper house elections without further delay. The presidential poll is still scheduled for 10 October.
The voting is taking place in a challenging security environment. According to media reports, the leader of Al-Shabaab, Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah, warned against participating in the polls in a recorded audio message, reportedly referencing security challenges. Somali Security Forces, with the support of AMISOM and international partners, continue their operations to thwart the capabilities of the militant group, which still operates across several regions of the country. One of the group’s recent attacks, conducted on 10 July, claimed the lives of some ten people and injured several others when a bomb exploded in Mogadishu. It was reportedly intended to kill the police commissioner. On 20 July, the US, in conjunction with Somali forces, conducted an airstrike against Al-Shabaab near the city of Galkayo, following attacks by the group on US-supported Somali security forces (a particular contingent referred to as “Danab forces”). The airstrike was the first since the Biden administration took office on 20 January; US drone activity had also declined pending the revision of its policy regarding the use of drones in conflict settings; the Department of Defense maintained that the airstrike was carried out in support of Somali partner forces and thus congruent with the policies in place. A second airstrike targeting Al-Shabaab took place on 23 July close to Qeycad.
On the humanitarian side, OCHA reported in its update on 14 July that the funding situation is “the worst in six years”, hindering the humanitarian community in assisting some 5.9 million persons in need. Natural disasters and conflict caused the internal displacement of some 2.9 million people, and a further 2.8 million are projected to face acute food insecurity by September.
The August briefing will precede negotiations on the UNSOM mandate, which expires on 31 August. It was last renewed on 28 August 2020 by resolution 2540. The text emphasised the role of UNSOM in supporting the Federal Government through the provision of strategic advice, good offices, capacity-building, and coordination of international support, including for elections. Its mandate is described as complementary to the mandates of AMISOM, the UN Country Team, and the support provided by the international community.
References to AMISOM in the mandate are likely to be the subject of discussion during the negotiation process. The AU has recently conducted an independent assessment of AMISOM. The assessment team apparently evaluated several options for the future of the AU mission, including:
- the establishment of an AU-UN Multidimensional Stabilisation Mission in Somalia;
- an AU Multidimensional Stabilisation Support Mission to Somalia, which would constitute a reconfiguration of AMISOM;
- the deployment of the East African Standby Force; and
- an AMISOM exit followed by the assumption of security responsibilities by the Somali Security Forces (SSF) under the Somali Transition Plan.
In its report, the team is said to have recommended the establishment of an AU-UN Multidimensional Stabilisation Mission to Somalia as the preferred option for consideration when the re-authorisation of AMISOM is discussed by the Council in December.
The AU assessment follows an independent assessment of AMISOM commissioned by the UN, which was submitted to the Security Council on 8 January. The UN report also evaluated the possibility of an AU-UN hybrid mission but concluded by recommending continued AU engagement through a reconfigured AMISOM. Such a reconfiguration would include a new concept of operations and a transition of AMISOM to a new African-led support mission. In reaction to the findings of the AU assessment, the Somali government has objected to replacing AMISOM with a hybrid mission. It appears to prefer a direct transition of security responsibilities from the AU mission to Somali security forces without a new international mission in the interim.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for the Council is how it can support UNSOM in continuing to assist Somalia in its electoral process.
A broader issue for the Council is how to support ongoing stabilisation and peacebuilding efforts in the country.
In renewing the UNSOM mandate, the Council could consider including language that:
- welcomes the outcome of the consultative process on outstanding issues related to the elections;
- calls on the Somali political stakeholders to remain constructive in their engagement throughout the electoral process, to deliver on their agreed commitments, to swiftly organise the upper house elections in all federal member states, and to resolve any issue that may arise through dialogue; and
- updating language about the challenging humanitarian situation and with the findings of the Secretary-General’s 6 May report on children and armed conflict, which identified Somalia as one of the countries with the highest number of grave violations, mostly owing to recruitment and use by Al-Shabaab.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Although resolution 2540 was adopted unanimously, language regarding human rights, climate change, and the rule of law sparked differing views during negotiations. Another difficult issue was the suggestion to add reporting requirements on the UN’s Human Rights Due Diligence Policy across all United Nations support to AMISOM and the Somali security sector; no agreement was reached on this matter, and the reference was omitted.
Divisions also persist regarding the future set-up and financing of AMISOM. The last authorisation of the mission was adopted unanimously, but in a joint explanation of vote, the “A3 plus one” (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) expressed disappointment over the omission of a reference to UN assessed contributions as an option to be examined for future financial support.
With the renewal of the AMISOM authorisation coming up on December, there may be increasing interest among members in assessing progress towards the implementation of the Somalia Transition Plan, which outlines the strategic and operational objectives for the progressive transfer of security responsibilities from AMISOM to the Somali security institutions by 2023.
The UK is the penholder on Somalia, and Ireland chairs the 751 Somalia sanctions committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SOMALIA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|12 March 2021S/RES/2568||This resolution reauthorised the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for ten months until 31 December 2021.|
|25 February 2021S/RES/2563||This resolution reauthorised the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for two weeks until 14 March.|
|28 August 2020S/RES/2540||This resolution extended UNSOM’s mandate for 12 months until 31 August 2021.|
|19 May 2021S/2021/485||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Somalia covering the developments from 10 February to 7 May 2021.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|12 November 2020S/PV.8775||This meeting record covered the adoption of resolution 2551 (2020), including several explanations after the vote. China and Russia abstained from this resolution renewing elements of the Somalia sanctions regime.|