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Briefing and Consultations on Somalia

Tomorrow (30 October), the Security Council will be briefed by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson on two reports as well his recent visit to Mogadishu. Eliasson is expected to cover the report of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on benchmarks for a UN peacekeeping operation and assessment of AMISOM and the Somali National Security Forces (SNSF) (S/2013/606), as well as the Secretary-General’s report on international anti-piracy measures in Somalia and its territorial waters (S/2013/623). It seems that a report from the government of Somalia following up on modification of the arms embargo, which was due on 7 October as specified in resolution 2093 of 6 March, has not yet been submitted and thus is not likely to be covered. The briefing will be followed by consultations among Council members.

Eliasson was in Mogadishu on 26 October, where he met with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Speaker of the Federal Parliament Mohammad Sheikh Osman Jawari and Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon. It seems during his time in Somalia, Eliasson was hoping to get a better sense of the progress made and challenges being faced in stabilising Somalia and members are likely to be interested in getting Eliasson’s impressions of the situation.

In discussing the joint AU-UN report Eliasson is expected to cover the different policy options regarding AMISOM, the SNSF and UN operational security proposed in the report. As the Council is expected to revise AMISOM’s mandate next month, there is likely to be interest in having a more detailed discussion on the various options. With respect to AMISOM, the report recommends adding 1,845 support-unit troops and increasing combat troops by 2,550 for a period of 18 to 24 months. It also raises the options of adding 1,000 troops for a guard force and increasing formed police units by 840 personnel. If all measures were approved, AMISOM’s authorisation, which is now 17,731 troops and police, would rise by 6,235 to 23,966. The report also recommends providing non-lethal assistance to the SNSF through UN-assessed contributions. An alternative, possibly more controversial, option to AMISOM providing UN security would be to deploy a UN Guard Force similar to the model used in Iraq.

While the 21-24 September terrorist attack by Al-Shabaab in Nairobi is likely to be a catalyst for building momentum among Council members for authorising increased military capacity for AMISOM and the provision of non-lethal assistance to the SNSF, this will be the first opportunity for Council members to discuss the options since the attack in Nairobi. The AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), in its 10 October communiqué, and the UN Secretary-General, in his 14 October letter transmitting the AU-UN report to the Council, have endorsed the recommendations regarding a troop increase contained in the joint mission report. However, while Council members may be largely in agreement about the need for AMISOM’s capacity to be increased, there may be several areas of potential disagreement.

One area of potential disagreement may be over whether the UN or the AU provides the Guard Force. Some Council members may support the AU position that this should be done by AMISOM while others may prefer that the UN assume this role. Concerns about financing, human rights and accountability may also dampen this nascent trend toward a more aggressive military stance in Somalia within a UN context. While Council members may agree that AMISOM and the SNSF require further financial assistance, they could also disagree on the specific funding mechanisms, with another complication being that EU financing of AMISOM troop salaries, requires EU approval.

As for human rights, the track record of AMISOM and the SNSF suggests effective implementation of the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy could be difficult. In addition, the delay in the release of the modification of the arms embargo report might also exacerbate concerns some members have about the broader issue of accountability. Some Council members may not be comfortable with increased UN financing and backing for operations over which the UN ultimately has little control. Some Council members may be concerned that an intensified counter-insurgency not be allowed to overshadow the difficult and unresolved political obstacles that Somalia faces.

Some Council members may raise a number of recent incidents related to Al-Shabaab. On 5 October US special forces raided the insurgent stronghold of Baraawe, Somalia. The target of the attack was Abdikadar Mohamed Abdikadar, an Al-Shabaab senior military planner of Somali origin, who is thought to have been associated with the terrorist attack on the UN compound in Mogadishu on 19 June. The raid was unsuccessful, as the US special forces ultimately withdrew without being able to apprehend Abdikadar. Just yesterday (28 October) according to press reports, a US drone strike in Jilib (120 kilometres north of Kismayo) reportedly killed Ibrahim Ali Abdi, an insurgent commander known to be an explosives expert, and one other Al-Shabaab member. Some Council members may wish to discuss whether these incidences are an indication of a resurgence of Western military intervention in the Horn of Africa and what implications this could have for the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia.

Discussion on the report of international anti-piracy measures, reauthorised for one year through the adoption of resolution 2077 on 21 November 2012 and due for renewal next month, is likely to be uncontroversial. The Secretary-General’s report notes that incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia are at their lowest level since 2006, with 17 attacks against ships during the first nine months of 2013. Nonetheless, the report concludes that the threat of piracy has not fully dissipated and that the international community should continue efforts in the areas of information sharing, prosecution of alleged pirates and other measures toward more effective maritime security.

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