Expected Council Action
In February, the Security Council will hold a briefing, followed by consultations, to discuss the situation in Somalia. Acting Special Representative for Somalia and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Kiki Gbeho, AU Special Representative and head of the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) Souef Mohamed El-Amine, and a civil society representative are the anticipated briefers.
Key Recent Developments
The fight against Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, remains a major focus of the Somali government. With the support of ATMIS, the Somali National Army (SNA) and allied clan militias have taken the lead in a major offensive operation against Al-Shabaab since June 2022. The US Africa Command has also supported the operation with air strikes targeting the group. Furthermore, recent media reports indicate that Türkiye has deployed its Bayraktar TB2 attack drones to provide strike capability and reconnaissance support to the offensive operations.
The federal government has succeeded in dislodging Al-Shabaab from some of its strongholds in central Somalia. On 17 January, the federal government announced the capture of three towns—Haradhere, Gal’ad, and El Dher—in Galmudug state, which were said to have been under the control of Al-Shabaab for more than a decade. Offensive operations have yet to start in south Somalia, where Al-Shabaab still maintains a strong presence. In addition to the efforts on the security front, the federal government is also targeting Al-Shabaab’s finances and ideology.
However, the group is continuing to wage counterattacks against the SNA and allied clan militias in which, in some instances, it has reportedly succeeded in recapturing areas recently taken by the government and perpetrated reprisal attacks against civilians. A 29 October 2022 attack by Al-Shabaab in Mogadishu claimed the lives of 100 people and injured more than 300. In a 1 November 2022 press statement, Council members condemned the attack and welcomed the efforts of the Somali federal government to counter the threat posed by the group.
The offensive operations by the SNA and allied clan militias are being carried out against the backdrop of a dire humanitarian situation. According to OCHA, about 5.6 million people face acute food insecurity in Somalia. But relief efforts have hitherto prevented famine, which had been projected to unfold from October to December 2022. OCHA still warns that famine is a strong possibility if ongoing relief efforts are not sustained and the coming rainy season, expected from April to June, produces less precipitation than anticipated.
Although relations between the federal government in Mogadishu and the country’s regions had shown signs of improvement after the 2022 Somali elections, new tensions have emerged. The president of South West State, Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed “Lafta Gareen”, has been accused by the opposition of trying to extend his term, which is expected to end this year. (A precedent was created last year when the Jubaland state parliament extended President Ahmed Islam Madobe’s term by one year.) The political tension in Baidoa, the capital of the South West State, turned violent in December 2022, resulting in several deaths and injuries. It seems that Lafta Gareen, a close ally of Somalia’s former president, Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo”, is not keen to support the offensive operations because of fears that it may affect his ability to remain in office.
There have also been allegations that Puntland’s president, Said Abdullahi Deni, may seek to extend his term beyond its constitutional limit in 2024. In a 9 January statement, Puntland declared its intention to act independently until the new Somali constitution is completed because of growing tensions with Mogadishu over the distribution of power between the federal government and the federal member states. Since 2017, Somalia has been undergoing a constitutional review process to adopt a new federal constitution. Although this process was to be completed within two years, it has been significantly delayed. The Somali federal government has made the finalisation of the constitutional review process one of its priorities.
The situation in Las Anod, a disputed area between Puntland and the breakaway region of Somaliland, was another source of tension recently. The assassination of a local opposition politician led to violent protests against the Somaliland government in December 2022 that resulted in several deaths and injuries and forced the withdrawal of Somaliland troops from the area. Deni reportedly issued a statement expressing Puntland’s readiness for a political or military solution to address the Las Anod situation. In addition, the speaker of Somalia’s lower house of parliament, the House of Representatives, appointed a 10-member committee to assess the situation. Somaliland’s President Musa Bihi has warned the Somali federal government and Puntland against interfering in Somaliland’s affairs. In a 1 January statement, UNSOM, ATMIS, and other bilateral and regional partners expressed concern about the violence in Las Anod and called for calm and restraint, encouraging the de-escalation of tensions through dialogue.
Women, Peace and Security
In a 25 November 2022 statement on the occasion of the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence global campaign, Gbeho said that the ongoing humanitarian crisis and conflict in the country have displaced large sections of the population and put women and girls at greater risk of violence, including sexual violence. Gbeho called for a more gender-inclusive humanitarian response and for creating a safe environment for women and girls. The statement also says that the UN in Somalia urges the Parliament to adopt the 2018 Sexual Offences Bill, “which will offer greater protection of the victims of sexual violence across the country”.
On 17 November 2022, the Security Council adopted resolution 2662, renewing the 751 Al-Shabaab sanctions regime for one year. The Council also renewed the mandate of the Somalia Panel of Experts until 15 December 2023. Eleven members voted in favour of the resolution and four abstained (China, Gabon, Ghana, and Russia). (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 16 November 2022.)
In February, the Chair of the 751 Al-Shabaab Sanctions Committee is expected to provide a 120-day briefing to the Security Council. At the time of writing, it was not yet clear who would chair the committee this year, the allocation of subsidiary body chairs has not been finalised.
Key Issues and Options
The offensive operations against Al-Shabaab are a key issue for Council members. They may welcome the progress made in these operations and underscore the need to consolidate the security gains through the implementation of the Somalia Transition Plan (STP) and the National Security Architecture (NSA), which have been developed to facilitate the gradual handover of security responsibilities to the Somali security forces. In this regard, Council members expect to hold a meeting in March on the transition with the participation of Somalia, the AU, the EU, and ATMIS troop-contributing countries.
The other major issue that could draw the attention of Council members is the growing tension between the Somali federal government and some of the federal member states, which could undermine the recent progress on the security front. Council members may, therefore, encourage Somali political stakeholders to ease tensions and resolve differences through dialogue.
The dire humanitarian situation in Somalia continues to be a major concern. A possible option is to invite a representative from OCHA to brief the Council on the current situation and the ongoing relief efforts.
Recent Council negotiations on Somalia, particularly the renewal of UNSOM’s mandate and the extension of the 751 Al-Shabaab sanctions regime, were difficult. China has been critical of Somalia, allegedly because of its position at the UN Human Rights Council in support of a discussion about the human rights situation in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. China abstained on the vote when the Security Council renewed UNSOM’s mandate for another year on 31 October 2022. The extension of the 751 Al-Shabaab sanctions regime was also divisive, with four members abstaining on the vote on 17 November 2022. Some of these members supported Somalia’s request for the lifting of the notification requirement related to the arms embargo imposed under the 751 Al-Shabaab sanctions regime.
When the Security Council considered the AU’s request in December 2022 to extend the operational timelines for the drawdown of ATMIS by six months, France was in favour of a shorter extension. In its explanation of vote during the adoption of resolution 2670, France stressed that it had agreed to the six-month extension on an exceptional basis.
The three African members (A3) (Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique) continue to appeal for adequate, sustainable, and predictable financing for ATMIS, highlighting the funding shortfall the mission is facing. There has not been agreement on this issue among Council members, but it is likely to be raised again in March when Council members meet with Somalia, the AU, the EU, and ATMIS troop-contributing countries.
UN DOCUMENTS ON SOMALIA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|21 December 2022S/RES/2670||This resolution extended the deadline for the first phase of the drawdown of ATMIS personnel until 30 June 2023.|
|31 October 2022S/RES/2657||This extended the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) until 31 October 2023|
|1 September 2022S/2022/665||This was a report on the situation in Somalia, covering developments from 7 May to 23 August 2022.|