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Briefing and Consultations on UN Assistance Mission in Somalia

Tomorrow (4 February), Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Nicholas Kay, will brief the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s 23 January report of the mission and on other recent developments. Maman Sidikou, Special Representative for Somalia of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and head of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), is expected to brief the Council via video tele-conference. The briefing will be followed by consultations with Kay. Tomorrow’s 120-day briefing and consultations are an opportunity for the Council to discuss the situation in Somalia and UNSOM’s work prior to the political mission’s mandate renewal in May.

Kay is likely to provide an update on the recent political crisis in Somalia. Newly appointed Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, who was confirmed by the parliament on 24 December, dissolved his cabinet on 17 January in the face of widespread parliamentary opposition. After meeting with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sharmarke on 21 January, representatives of the AU, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), EU, UK, UN and US issued a joint statement expressing concern over the delays and calling for the rapid appointment of a new parliament-endorsed cabinet. Sharmarke nominated a new 20-person cabinet on 27 January, which was then welcomed in a statement by Kay. At a meeting with President Mohamud in Addis Ababa on 30 January, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed the importance of internal political stability to allow for progress on Vision 2016, the Federal Government of Somalia’s (FGS) plan for federal state formation, adoption of a new constitution, and national elections.

The critical importance of the federal state formation process will undoubtedly also be a prominent theme in Kay’s briefing. Noteworthy developments mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report include: an agreement signed on 14 October between semi-autonomous Puntland and the FGS to resume relations that had been suspended since August 2013; a memorandum of understanding signed on 15 November between the Interim Juba Administration and the FGS regarding the integration of militias into the Somali National Army (SNA); and the selection on 17 November of Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan as leader of the Interim South-West Administration. The northern region of Sool, contested by Puntland and secessionist Somaliland, continues to be an area of instability and intermittent armed conflict. Council members may be particularly interested in an update on the federal state formation process in order to better understand how UNSOM has implemented its mandate to provide advice on statebuilding.

During consultations with Kay, Council members may ask about the operational constraints currently facing UNSOM, particularly with regard to its facilitation of statebuilding and peacebuilding outside of the capital. The ongoing federal state formation process implies there may be a need for a progressive geographical shift in UNSOM’s work from Mogadishu to other regions of Somalia. Likewise, as the joint SNA and AMISOM military offensive captures territory from Al-Shabaab, the need for UNSOM to advise on peacebuilding, coordinate humanitarian assistance, and facilitate FGS service delivery outside the capital also increases. Kay’s candid assessment of the security and staffing constraints facing UNSOM would be particularly useful for Council members in light of the upcoming mandate renewal.

In his briefing, Sidikou will likely provide an assessment of the joint military offensive by the SNA and AMISOM, particularly the reaction of the Al-Shabaab insurgency. On 11 January, a remote-controlled bomb hit an AMISOM convoy in the southern port city of Kismayo, killing three soldiers; Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the blast. Conflict has also recently flared up between Al-Shabaab and Puntland security forces in the Galgala hills region 50 kilometres southwest of the northern port city of Bosaso. According to the Puntland authorities, twenty Al-Shabaab fighters and five government troops were killed in clashes during the first week of January. How AMISOM and the SNA are adapting to an evolving geography of combat in Somalia may be of interest to Council members, including with respect to Al-Shabaab’s growing presence in Puntland, which falls outside AMISOM’s sectors of deployment.

Sidikou may also discuss Al-Shabaab’s increasing resort to terrorist tactics in urban areas, as well as explain AMISOM’s existing counter-terrorism capacity. On 25 December, the group attacked the AMISOM Halane Base Camp near Mogadishu, resulting in the death of three AMISOM soldiers and a civilian contractor. On 22 January, the day before the president of Turkey was due to arrive, an Al-Shabaab suicide car bomber attacked a hotel in Mogadishu where the Turkish diplomatic delegation was staying. Two policemen and a hotel employee were killed in the blast, but no members of the Turkish delegation were injured.

Additionally, Sidikou could offer analysis regarding the impact of the FGS amnesty program and continued US targeting of Al-Shabaab’s leadership with drone strikes. On 27 December 2014, Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi, thought to have once been the head of the Amniyat (Al-Shabaab’s intelligence wing, responsible for assassinations, internal security and suicide bombing), surrendered to the FGS. The US had offered a $3 million bounty for Hersi in June 2012. On 29 December 2014, a US drone strike killed Tahliil Abdishakur, who the US Department of Defense stated was the current head of the Amniyat, and two other Al-Shabaab members. Council members may also be interested in information on to what extent the amnesty program started 3 September has prompted defections from rank-and-file members of Al-Shabaab.

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