What's In Blue

Posted Wed 21 May 2014

Briefing, Consultations and Presidential Statement on Somalia

Tomorrow (22 May), the Security Council is expected to adopt a presidential statement on arms and ammunition management by the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS). The Council is also scheduled to hold a briefing and consultations on the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). Nicholas Kay, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNSOM, is expected to brief via video teleconference from Mogadishu. The briefing will be primarily based on the latest quarterly report of the Secretary-General on UNSOM, which covers the period from 16 February to 30 April (S/2014/330). Ambassador Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and head of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), may also participate in the briefing.

The draft presidential statement, which was put under silence on Tuesday (20 May), follows up on the Secretary-General’s letter of 3 April offering recommendations for assisting the FGS to comply with its arms and ammunition management obligations as stipulated in resolution 2142 (S/2014/243). Resolution 2142 extended a partial lifting of the arms embargo in Somalia until 25 October 2014, while also imposing further regulatory and reporting requirements on the FGS. The draft presidential statement expresses concern at the diversion of arms in the past and restates its expectation of improved FGS arms and ammunition management in the future. It also calls upon member states to offer necessary financing and technical assistance and suggests the creation of a verification mechanism including international experts.

In a 6 February leaked mid-term report, the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group [SEMG], which assists the 751/1907 Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee, expressed concerns regarding “high-level and systematic abuses in weapons and ammunition management and distribution”. In particular, the report apparently claimed that weapons have been illegally diverted for two main reasons—clan allegiance and war profiteering—leading to weapons ending up under Al-Shabaab control. The SEMG recommended either reinstating a comprehensive arms embargo on Somalia or significantly tightening the regulatory provisions applying to the FGS. (The partial lifting, first authorised with resolution 2093 on 6 March 2013, was requested by the FGS and strongly supported by the US, with other Council members aligning, despite some having strong concerns regarding state capacity in weapons management.)

During the briefing, Council members are likely to be interested in hearing more from Kay and Annadif about the joint military operation, termed Operation Eagle, which began in early March. AMISOM and the Somali National Army (SNA) have made significant progress in capturing territory from Al-Shabaab since the launch of this operation which covers areas in south and central Somalia including Gedo, Bay, Bakool, Hiraan, Galgaduud, Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle. More recently, AMISOM has also used airstrikes against Al-Shabaab, with two attacks launched near the town of Jilib in the Juba region within the last week. While AMISOM has had success in capturing towns under Al-Shabaab control, stabilisation of these areas, the extension of state administration and delivery of public services are major challenges for the FGS. On 8 May, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support Judy Cheng-Hopkins announced $10 million would be committed from the Peacebuilding Fund Immediate Response Facility to support work in newly recovered areas. Council members may be interested in Kay’s perspective on what to prioritise in this process.

Meanwhile, urban areas remain insecure as Al-Shabaab continues to use asymmetrical tactics, particularly in Mogadishu. Kay may highlight some recent incidents, including the assassination of the regional intelligence chief in Kismaayo on 17 February, an attack on Villa Somalia on 21 February, car bombs in Mogadishu on 27 February and 15 March, and the assassination of two members of parliament on 21 and 22 April. In an incident apparently unrelated to Al-Shabaab, two staff members of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime were killed at the Gaalkacyo airport on 7 April. On 18 May, Kay presided over the formal inauguration of the UN Guard Unit (UNGU), which is comprised of 410 troops provided by Uganda. Council members are likely to be interested in hearing about the impact the UNGU is expected to have in terms of facilitating UNSOM’s work in a very difficult security environment.

In terms of political developments, Council members may be looking for an update and further analysis on the conflict between a faction of parliament and President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. On 8 May, a letter signed by more than 100 members of parliament was delivered to Mohamud, threatening impeachment proceedings unless he resigns from office. (Support of one-third of the 275 members is required to initiate proceedings, but support of two-thirds of members is required for impeachment). Many members are apparently dissatisfied with the government’s progress in improving the security situation, particularly its inability to fully secure the capital city from terrorist attacks. While it seems there is unlikely to be adequate support in parliament for impeachment, the threat raises important questions regarding political stability.

Council members may also be interested in Kay’s assessment of the federal state formation process. In particular, there are competing processes to establish a three-region federal state and a six-region federal state, each based in the city of Baidoa. A three-region process is favoured by the FGS, while it would seem that the six-region process would be problematic, as it attempts to incorporate three regions already included in the Interim Juba Administration. Tensions have also recently increased between secessionist Somaliland and semi-autonomous Puntland over the contested border regions of Sanaag and Sool. On 15 April, Somaliland deployed forces to Sool and occupied the town of Taleex, although the situation de-escalated and Somaliland’s troops withdrew the next day. However, in the longer-term, the situation between Somaliland and Puntland remains complicated by overlapping claims to oil deposits within this contested territory. Resolution of these types of issues remains a central challenge for statebuilding.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in Somalia is deteriorating. According to the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Philippe Lazzarini, the UN’s humanitarian appeal of $940 million has only been 17% funded. Without new contributions, this will soon result in a shutdown of food distribution in Somalia. An escalation of armed conflict has resulted in the displacement of people, a disruption of local food production, and a de facto road transport embargo by Al-Shabaab. According to Lazzarini, a drought and other early warning indicators suggest the situation is now analogous to the period prior to the famine in 2011 in which 260,000 people died. (By the time the UN officially declared a famine in July 2011 and increased its humanitarian response, half of the victims had already died.) Council members may choose to consider how member states could be mobilised to contribute toward humanitarian operations in Somalia and what concrete steps could be taken to mitigate the adverse humanitarian consequences of counter-insurgency. Some Council members may also be keen to have more information than has been provided in the Secretary-General’s report, particularly given that Kay recently toured the Middle Shabelle region on a humanitarian fact finding mission. A separate briefing by Lazzarini may also be of interest.

A resolution renewing the mandate of UNSOM, which is due to expire on 3 June, has been scheduled for adoption on 28 May. At press time, a draft resolution had not yet been circulated to Council members, but it seems that the resolution may take the form of a technical rollover (with few, if any, changes to UNSOM’s mandate).

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