October 2023 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2023
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Expected Council Action  

In October, the Security Council will hold a briefing, followed by consultations, to discuss the situation in Somalia.  

In addition, the Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), which is set to expire on 31 October. The Chair of the 751 Al-Shabaab Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Ishikane Kimihiro (Japan), is also expected to brief the Council.   

The 751 Al-Shabaab sanctions regime expires on 15 November, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts supporting the 751 Al-Shabaab Sanctions Committee expires on 15 December.    

Key Recent Developments 

On 22 June, the Council held an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the situation in Somalia. Special Representative for Somalia and head of UNSOM Catriona Laing; Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson (SRCC) for Somalia and head of the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) Mohamed El-Amine Souef; and Executive Director of the World Food Programme Cindy McCain briefed. In her remarks, Laing said that the Somali government has made significant progress in advancing key national priorities; in this regard, she highlighted the appointment of the Independent Constitutional Review and Implementation Commission, the passage of 11 pieces of legislation (six of which have been signed into law), and the successful conduct of district council elections in Puntland state. She pointed out several key priorities for UNSOM, including positioning UNSOM to play a lead role in bringing together the international community’s efforts on stabilisation in the country, prioritising support for state-building processes (particularly those related to elections), and supporting ongoing efforts to resolve the conflict in Las Anod. (Las Anod is a disputed area between Puntland and the self-proclaimed region of Somaliland). 

On 14 September, the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) held a meeting on the situation in Somalia and ATMIS operations. In a communiqué adopted following the meeting, the AUPSC expressed concern that Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, retains influence on some of the main supply routes in the country, enabling them to extort money from the public through illegal taxation. It reiterated the Somali government’s request for the lifting of the arms embargo— imposed under the 751 Al-Shabab sanctions regime—in order to enable the Somalia security forces (SSF) to obtain adequate military equipment. Furthermore, it requested the AU Commission, in collaboration with the Somali government, to evaluate the progress the government has made in terms of reforms, force generation, and readiness to stabilise the country, and to conduct a needs assessment to determine the support required by the Somali government in its fight against al-Shabaab.  

The AUPSC also requested the Chairperson of the AU Commission to formulate a viable ATMIS exit strategy, including proposals for the AU’s continued engagement with and support for Somalia after 31 December 2024, when ATMIS is expected to exit. It emphasised the importance of ensuring that the withdrawal of ATMIS troops is undertaken in a manner that does not leave the mission vulnerable to attacks and that focuses on the protection of civilians within ATMIS’ area of operations. In addition, it expressed concern that Al-Shabaab may exploit any security gaps during or following the drawdown of the 3,000 ATMIS troops if the drawdown is not implemented judiciously.   

In a 19 September letter addressed to the President of the Security Council, the Somali government requested a three-month technical pause in the drawdown of 3,000 ATMIS personnel as set out in resolution 2687. The letter said that, following the 26 August attack by Al-Shabaab in the Galguduud region, Somali forces suffered significant setbacks, with forces retreating from several towns that they had recently taken. It added that such incidents have exposed Somali forces’ vulnerabilities on the frontlines and have necessitated a thorough reorganisation to sustain the momentum in countering threats from Al-Shabaab. It noted that, during the proposed three-month technical pause, the Somali government will conduct a comprehensive reassessment of the operational needs of the Somali National Armed Forces. The letter also proposed a series of strategic actions, including prioritising offensive operations against Al-Shabaab and the flexibility to resize or relocate Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) as needed.  

Tensions have continued between Somaliland security forces and the local Dhulbahante clan in Las Anod following the assassination in December 2022 of a local opposition politician from that clan. Fighting erupted on 6 February, the same day that Dhulbahante clan elders in Sool announced their intention to form their own independent federal state in Somalia, named SSC-Khaatumo, comprising the Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn regions. In a 7 June press statement, Council members expressed concern over the ongoing violence in Las Anod and welcomed efforts and initiatives by the Somali government, Ethiopia, and clan elders to secure a ceasefire and promote an inclusive national dialogue to address the situation. The statement called on all parties to reach a ceasefire agreement urgently and for UNSOM to provide further support in accordance with its mandate, including by engaging with all parties where necessary.  

Following intense fighting, SSC-Khaatumo forces announced on 25 August that they had taken control of the entire regions of Sool and Sanaag, and Somaliland’sGoojacade military base, which is located on the outskirts of Las Anod. The SSC-Khaatumo forces reportedly captured numerous Somaliland soldiers, several of whom are senior military officers. On 7 September, Council members discussed the deteriorating situation in Las Anod under “any other business”, at which Laing briefed. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 6 September.)  

Sanctions-Related Developments 

On 28 September, the 751 Al-Shabaab sanctions committee held informal consultations, during which it received a briefing from OCHA on its recent report providing an update on the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Somalia. In the same session, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) briefed the Committee on its work related to resolution 2662 of 17 November 2022, which renewed the 751 Al-Shabaab sanctions regime for one year. 

On 29 September, the 751 Al-Shabaab sanctions committee held informal consultations to discuss the final report of the Panel of Experts supporting the 751 Al-Shabaab Sanctions Committee.  

Human Rights-Related Developments 

During its 54th session, the Human Rights Council is expected to hold an interactive dialogue on 10 October on the report of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Isha Dyfan, (A/HRC/54/78), which was released on 21 August. The report, which covered developments from 1 July 2022 to 30 June, noted that Dyfan was unable to visit Somalia due to a “lack of formal acceptance of a visit” by the Somali government. It further said that the humanitarian situation in the country remained alarming, owing to continued conflict and insecurity. All parties to the conflict continued to commit serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law with impunity, the report added.  

Regarding the conflict in Las Anod, the report said that between 27 December 2022 and 15 June, the human rights and protection group of UNSOM documented at least 552 civilian casualties, of whom 87 were killed and 465 were injured.   

Key Issues and Options 

The key issue for Council members in October is how to support the Somali government in implementing its national priorities. A possible option is for Council members to extend UNSOM’s mandate for one year and request the mission to continue aligning its support with the government’s priorities.  

The ATMIS drawdown process is another issue for Council members. In December 2022, the AUPSC supported the Somali government’s request for a revision of the operational timelines for the ATMIS withdrawal, and the Security Council in turn accepted the revised operational timeline through the adoption of resolution 2670 of 21 December 2022. This time, the Somali government has addressed its request directly to the Security Council. Since ATMIS is an AU mission, Council members may want to hear from the AUPSC before they react to the request.   

A related issue is the financing of ATMIS for the proposed extension, as its current mandate is due to expire on 31 December.  

Another key issue for Council members is the security situation in Las Anod. In the upcoming UNSOM mandate renewal, Council members may wish to express concern about the fighting in the region and its impact on the humanitarian situation, as well as support for UNSOM’s efforts in bringing the conflict to a peaceful resolution.   

Council Dynamics 

Council members support the government’s priorities and recognise the many challenges facing the country, including the persistent insecurity caused by the terrorist activities of Al-Shabaab, and they support ongoing efforts to fight the group. Some members, however, believe that a security approach will not be sufficient and underscore the need to make progress in governance, justice, and economic reforms. Other Council members emphasise the need for progress in implementing the Somali Transition Plan, including national force generation. African members and China have raised the funding challenge facing ATMIS and called for adequate, sustainable, and predictable financing for the mission.   

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Security Council Resolutions
27 June 2023S/RES/2687 This was the resolution that renewed the authorisation of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) for six months.
31 October 2022S/RES/2657 This extended the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) until 31 October 2023
Security Council Meeting Records
22 June 2023S/PV.9356 This was the meeting on the situation in Somalia.

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