Expected Council Action
In February, the Security Council will hold a briefing on the situation in Somalia, followed by closed consultations. James Swan, the Special Representative for Somalia and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), and Francisco Madeira, head of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), are the expected briefers. Ahead of the meeting, the Council will receive the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the country and on the activities of AMISOM.
The Council will also hear the periodic briefing by the Chair of the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason (Ireland), covering the committee’s activities during the last 120 days.
Key Recent Developments
The political landscape in Somalia continues to be dominated by the discussion surrounding elections for Somalia’s lower house (the House of the People) in all federal member states and escalating tensions between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo” and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble.
When the Council last met on Somalia on 17 November 2021, Swan welcomed the commencement of the lower house elections, with two out of 275 seats filled. He called for the swift completion of the electoral process “to ensure that the full Parliament is elected before the end of this year ”. By the year’s end, however, the electoral process had progressed only slowly, and amid the delays, tensions between Farmaajo and Roble re-emerged.
On 26 December 2021, Villa Somalia, the office of the president, published a statement on elections, criticising “the delay and slow pace of the Prime Minister in conducting the elections as tasked by the President” and asserting that Roble posed a serious threat to the electoral process. The statement called for a consultative meeting between the federal government and its member states to chart a new direction and to agree on “capable leadership” to advance the process. In a statement released the following day, Villa Somalia announced the suspension of Roble based on allegations that he had misappropriated public land owned by the Somali National Army and announced an investigation into the matter.
Roble dismissed the allegations as a coup attempt aimed at derailing the ongoing elections and demanded that the security forces henceforth respond only to his command. In early January, he convened a national consultative meeting, the forum consisting of representatives from the federal government and its member states, established to bridge electoral differences. The forum concluded with a 9 January statement announcing a revised electoral timetable under which the outstanding elections would be completed between 15 January and 25 February.
The political dispute renewed concerns that the government might lose its focus on the fight against Al-Shabaab. The militant group continued to conduct attacks in wide areas of the country, including several bombings in Mogadishu, causing many casualties. A 16 January suicide bombing injured the government spokesperson, Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, who was flown to Turkey for treatment.
In a 29 December 2021 joint communiqué, the government of Somalia and the AU acknowledged the need for a reconfigured AU mission and agreed to finalise by 11 February outstanding tasks towards the implementation of the Somali Transition Plan, the document outlining the gradual handover of security responsibilities from AMISOM to the Somali National Army. During talks in Addis Ababa from 21 to 24 January, Somalia and the AU also reportedly agreed to extend the presence of AU peacekeepers in the country for another 33 months and rename the mission the AU Transition Mission to Somalia (ATMIS).
These steps appear to represent progress in resolving the dispute between the Somali federal government and the AU over the future of AMISOM. Previously the AU had called on the Council to mandate an AU-UN hybrid mission funded by UN assessed contributions, while Somalia had envisioned a reconfigured AMISOM mission as the best option during a transition period leading to its own forces taking over responsibility for security in the country.
The dispute has delayed the development of a joint proposal by the AU, the UN and the Somali federal government on future security arrangements in the country. The Council had requested this proposal in resolution 2568 of 12 March 2021.
In order to allow more time for the AU and Somalia to reach an agreement on security arrangements—and in light of the expiration of AMISOM’s authorisation on 31 December 2021—the Council adopted resolution 2614 of 21 December 2021, which reauthorised AMISOM’s mandate without substantive changes for three months until 31 March. At the time of writing, Somalia, the AU, the EU (as the largest donor to AMISOM), and the UN were engaged in talks at the technical and senior leadership levels with the goal of producing such a proposal.
On 10 December 2021, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten briefed the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee, noting trends of sexual violence emerging across Somalia. She also presented recommendations on how the committee could counter these trends.
On 16 December, Secretary-General António Guterres announced the appointment of five individuals to the Panel of Experts. A sixth candidate, who had been approved by the committee, indicated that she was no longer available to serve on the panel. Recruitment to fill her position is currently ongoing. The appointments followed a prolonged hold by Russia on several expert appointments across sanctions regimes, citing a need for increased geographical diversity among UN experts.
Key Issues and Options
The shape of the future AU security presence in Somalia is a key issue for the Council, as well as for the AU and the Somali government. The AU mission will be expected to counter Al-Shabaab while gradually handing over security responsibilities to the Somali government. With the 31 March deadline for the current AMISOM reauthorisation approaching, the Council could convene an informal interactive dialogue with Somalia, the AU, the EU, the UN and troop-contributing countries to allow for a frank discussion on the efforts to produce a proposal on transitional security arrangements, including possible Council action to best support this process.
The Council is also likely to monitor closely the completion of the lower house elections, which will pave the way for the holding of an indirect presidential election on 25 February. To that effect, Council members could consider issuing a press statement welcoming the progress achieved so far and urging all stakeholders to further advance the electoral process in a way that promotes the full, equal and meaningful participation of women.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Recent developments on the Council and at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa may change Council dynamics. At the beginning of this year, the UAE, which has an interest in Somalia and the region and maintains close ties with some Somali political stakeholders, joined the Council as an elected member. On 7 January, Roble publicly apologised to the UAE for the Somali government’s seizure of some $9.6 million in UAE funds at the Mogadishu airport in 2018, ordering the funds to be returned to the Emirates. However, Farmaajo subsequently ordered the Central Bank not to release what he called “illicit money” and alleged that the funds had been intended to destabilise Somalia. According to the UAE, these funds were intended for training Somali troops.
The agreement reached in Addis Ababa in January between the AU and the government of Somalia may also have an impact on the position of the African Council members. The agreement foresees, among other things, the position of the ATMIS force commander being held by the largest troop contributor. The views of the troop-contributing countries of AMISOM, including Council member Kenya, to the latest proposal by Somalia and the AU is not yet known. Regardless of the new proposal, the financing of the mission may also continue to be an issue.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SOMALIA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|3 December 2021S/RES/2608||This renewed the anti-piracy measures off the coast of Somalia for three months.|
|15 November 2021S/RES/2607||This resolution renewed 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, charcoal exports, and IED components; and humanitarian exemptions to the regime. The resolution received 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia).|
|30 August 2021S/RES/2592||This resolution renewed the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) until 31 May 2022.|
|12 March 2021S/RES/2568||This resolution reauthorised the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for ten months until 31 December 2021.|
|11 November 2021S/2021/944||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Somalia covering developments from 1 August to 4 November 2021.|
|Security Council Letters|
|29 September 2021S/2021/858||This was a letter from the Secretary-General to the Security Council president requesting an extension of the deadlines to submit a proposal on a reconfigured AMISOM and options for continued UN logistical support to the AU mission, UNSOM and the Somali security forces.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|15 November 2021S/PV.8905||This meeting record covered the adoption of resolution 2607, including several explanations after the vote.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|5 October 2021S/2021/849||This was the final report of the Panel of Experts on Somalia, attesting that Al-Shabaab remained the most immediate threat to the peace, security and stability of Somalia.|