Expected Council Action
In November, the Security Council is expected to renew the 751 Somalia sanctions regime set to expire on 15 November and the mandate of the Panel of Experts supporting the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee, which expires on 15 December.
Key Recent Developments
The new Somali government has intensified its fight against Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group affiliated with Al-Qaeda that maintains a strong presence in several parts of the country, particularly in southern and central Somalia. The group is said to have acquired sophisticated weaponry, such as commercial drones and armoured suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (SVBIED), to launch attacks, including against the Somali security forces and the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS). On 3 October, the group used SVBIED to target a local government office in Beledweyne, Hiraan region that killed 20 people, including senior government officials and two ATMIS soldiers.
In his speech at the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud expressed his government’s firm resolve to defeat Al-Shabaab. The government is also trying to counter the group’s ideology and propaganda by cracking down on its affiliated media outlets and social media platforms. In an 8 October press release, the government announced the criminalisation of “the dissemination of terrorist messages and encouraging their act of brutality—by any media or person on social media”. Accordingly, it suspended four Al-Shabaab affiliated websites (SomaliMemo, Radio Al-Furqaan, AmiirNuur, and Calamada) and blocked 40 social media pages on Twitter and Facebook.
The AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) is providing support to the ongoing military operations of the Somali security forces and allied forces, which have made significant military gains in removing Al-Shabaab from several villages and towns in Hirshabelle and Galmudug states. ATMIS is also assisting in stabilising liberated areas and safeguarding critical infrastructure. Although the Somali government is expected to make progress in force generation and integration so that ATMIS can gradually draw down and hand over security responsibilities to the Somali security forces, there is concern that delays in implementing the Somali Transition Plan may affect the timeline set out in resolution 2628 of 31 March, which reconfigured the mission from the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to ATMIS. On 31 December, ATMIS is expected to reduce the number of its uniformed personnel by 2,000 (currently, the mission has an authorised strength of 19,626 uniformed personnel).
The severe drought facing Somalia underpins its dire humanitarian situation, with humanitarian actors working against the clock to avert a looming famine. According to OCHA, “Famine… is projected to unfold in the Bay region of south-central Somalia during October to December if multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance does not urgently reach the people in most need”. International partners are said to be scaling up their support for the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan, which calls for $1.4 billion. OCHA says that “critical sectors remain underfunded, and needs are growing”.
On 31 October, the Security Council renewed the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) for one year with 14 votes in favour and one abstention (China). (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 30 October.)
The 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee held informal consultations on 7 October to receive a briefing by the Panel of Experts on its final report, which noted, among other things, that “Al-Shabaab remains the most immediate threat to the peace, security and stability of Somalia”. On 14 October, the committee received briefings from OCHA on challenges in the provision of humanitarian assistance in Somalia and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on maritime security and the countering of terrorism financing in the country. The chair of the committee, Ambassador Fergal Mythen (Ireland), briefed the Council on 19 October, covering the activities carried out by the committee over the previous three months.
Pursuant to resolution 2607 of 15 November 2021, the Secretary-General submitted a technical assessment of Somalia’s weapons and ammunition management capability on 15 September. The report said that “Somalia is on a positive trajectory in its management of weapons and ammunition”, noting the important steps the country has taken to implement a National Weapons and Ammunition Management Strategy. However, the report also referred to continued challenges that need to be addressed by the federal government and the federal member states and presented options for benchmarks to assist the Security Council in its consideration of the arms embargo in November.
Key Issues and Options
The key issue for Council members in November is the extension of the 751 Somalia sanctions regime and the mandate renewal of the Panel of Experts. In this regard, they may draw on the findings of the technical assessment and the recommendations contained in the panel’s final report. Council members may consider how they can support ongoing efforts to fight Al-Shabaab by tightening the sanctions measures to disrupt its financing and to prevent the transfer of electronic items, such as learning code receivers and motorcycle alarms, used in improvised explosive devices. Members may also consider how to support the government’s efforts to strengthen its security institutions and improve its ammunition and weapons management.
A possible option for the Council is to extend the sanctions regime and the mandate of the Panel of Experts by one year. In doing so, they are likely to review the exemption provisions to support the Somali security institutions and to establish benchmarks for ammunition and weapons management.
Another important issue is how to address the tensions between Eritrea and Djibouti as this dispute has been referenced in the language on Somalia sanctions for several years. While Eritrea wants language related to the dispute removed from the sanctions resolution, Djibouti would like to see it maintained.
Somalia has long called for the lifting of the arms embargo, and the government reiterated this position in its meeting with the technical assessment team. The three African members of the Council—Gabon, Ghana and Kenya—have recently been vocal in their concerns about the adverse effects of sanctions in several contexts. It remains to be seen, however, if they will support Somalia’s request for the lifting of the arms embargo. In light of the ongoing military operations against Al-Shabaab, they could be supportive of tightening the sanctions measures against the group and the review of the exemptions procedure to assist the Somali government in its efforts to strengthen its security institutions.
Last year, the Council extended the 751 Somalia sanctions regime with two abstentions. China abstained in support of Somalia’s position on wishing the arms embargo to be lifted, and Russia abstained in relation to the text’s reference to the dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea, arguing that the issue no longer posed a threat to regional peace and security and could be handled diplomatically through bilateral engagement.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SOMALIA
|15 September 2022S/2022/698||This was a technical assessment report on Somalia’s weapons and ammunition management.|
|13 May 2022S/2022/392||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Somalia covering developments from 1 February to 13 May.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|19 October 2022S/PV.9157||This was the briefing by the Chair of the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee.|
|7 September 2022S/PV.9125||This was a briefing on the situation in Somalia.|