Expected Council Action
In May, the Security Council will hold a briefing, followed by consultations, to discuss the situation in Somalia. Special Representative for Somalia and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) James Swan and an AU representative are the expected briefers. The Council is also scheduled to vote on a resolution renewing the mandate of UNSOM.
Key Recent Developments
At the time of writing, Somalia was in the final stretches of completing its parliamentary elections. By the end of April, all seats for both parliamentary chambers had been filled, ending an electoral process which commenced in 2021. The newly elected parliamentarians convened during the last week of April to vote for their respective speakers, electing Abdi Hashi Abdullahi as Speaker of the upper house (the Senate) and Sheikh Adan Mohamed Nur as Speaker of the lower house (House of the People) on 26 and 27 April, respectively.
Ahead of the vote to elect the speaker of the lower house, disagreements emerged between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo” and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble regarding security arrangements for the site of that election—a hangar located in the Mogadishu International Airport area and secured jointly by Somali and AU security forces. (The Mogadishu International Airport area is a fortified location hosting the UN and several diplomatic representations). The location was the target of an attack by the terrorist group Al-Shabaab on 23 March. Security concerns prompted Roble to request the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) in a 26 April statement to “immediately take over security of the air force hangar”. Farmaajo rejected the move, stating that an electoral security committee led by the Somali police with the support of ATMIS would maintain security responsibilities.
There was concern that this disagreement over security issues could cause the vote to be postponed, but the election eventually took place. With both speakers now in place, Somalia is on track to organise its presidential election in the coming weeks. Farmaajo is standing for re-election and will run against former Presidents Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud as well as against former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire.
On 1 April, the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) transitioned to ATMIS, following the 8 March decision of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) to reconfigure the mission and the adoption of resolution 2628 of 31 March by the Security Council, authorising the AU presence in Somalia in accordance with the PSC’s decision. Similar to its predecessor mission, ATMIS will support the Somali security forces with implementing the Somalia transition plan, with a view to fully handing over security responsibilities to Somalia by 2024. Thus far, the same troop and police-contributing countries that served with AMISOM—Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda—remain within ATMIS. However, ATMIS’s mandate foresees the option for additional member states to join. When the mission commenced operations at the beginning of April, its funding modalities remained unsettled. The EU, the largest contributor to AMISOM, announced on 21 April its decision to establish an assistance measure under the European Peace Facility to support AU peace operations with a total budget of €600 million, starting this year until 2024.
The leadership of ATMIS has been the subject of controversy, and the issue showcased the strained relationship between Farmaajo and Roble. On 6 April, Roble ordered the expulsion of the Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson (SRCC) Francisco Madeira from the country for “acts that are incompatible with his status as a representative of the AU Commission”. The move was reportedly based on leaked audio files of Madeira apparently accusing Roble of attempts to actively prevent Farmaajo’s re-election. Farmaajo opposed the move, stating that the expulsion of accredited diplomats was not within the purview of the prime minister’s office. Madeira, who was outside Somalia on 6 April, has not returned to the country. Media sources indicate that the AU may soon appoint a new representative to Somalia.
Within this turbulent political and security environment, Somalia has continued to grapple with a severe drought that has caused some 81,000 Somalis to face extreme food shortages, according to a 12 April joint FAO, OCHA, UNICEF and WFP statement. The war in Ukraine has exacerbated the situation, causing a spike in food prices.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for the Council continues to be the finalisation of Somalia’s electoral process. With the conditions now in place to elect a new president through Somalia’s indirect voting model, the focus of the Council is likely to be on the holding of the presidential vote. That election is expected to take place before a crucial 17 May deadline, when the new government is expected to endorse the IMF’s programme for Somalia or risk losing vital IMF support.
With the completion of the electoral process, the Council may refocus its attention on stabilising the security situation, consolidating the federal model, promoting national reconciliation and addressing the dire humanitarian situation.
In resolution 2592 of 30 August 2021, which renewed the mandate of UNSOM until 31 May, the Council requested a strategic review of the mission “after the electoral process has concluded”. With the renewal date of UNSOM’s mandate approaching, the presidential election still forthcoming, and taking into account that a new government may require time to appoint ministers and formulate its programme, the Council may consider a short technical rollover of UNSOM’s mandate to ensure the mission is best positioned to support the needs of a new administration.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The outcome of the presidential elections may also affect Council dynamics. Throughout Somalia’s electoral period, the Council was united in calling on the Somali government to prioritise the conduct of elections within the agreed timelines. Divisions had emerged, however, over the Council’s role in promoting the process, with some Council members preferring sustained Council involvement and others preferring that the Council provide space for Somalia to address any issues hampering the electoral process.
The A3 (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya) may continue to advance the AU position on sustainable and predictable funding for ATMIS to preserve the gains made in Somalia. Kenya may want the successor government to place a sustained focus on the fight against Al-Shabaab and may also wish to re-discuss the maritime border dispute with a new administration, the case having strained its relations with Farmaajo.
In terms of the wider regional dynamics, how the new government will position itself in the neighbourhood will have implications in terms of realignment of regional politics and may affect the tripartite alliance of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. The outcome of the election will also affect Somalia’s relations with Gulf countries. Qatar is said to have supported Farmaajo’s re-election, whereas the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has maintained ties with Roble and some of the federal member states.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SOMALIA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|31 March 2022S/RES/2628||This resolution endorsed the decision by the AU Peace and Security Council to reconfigure the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) into the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS). The resolution authorises, for the period of one year, AU member states to deploy uniformed personnel in the country to carry out ATMIS’ mandated tasks.|
|3 December 2021S/RES/2608||This renewed the anti-piracy measures off the coast of Somalia for three months.|
|8 February 2022S/2022/101||This report was on the situation in Somalia, covering developments from 6 November 2021 to 31 January 2022.|
|3 November 2021S/2021/920||This was the Secretary-General’s annual report on the situation regarding piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia.|
|Security Council Letters|
|4 October 2021S/2021/859||This was a letter from the Security Council in response to the Secretary-General’s request for 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.|