What's In Blue

Posted Mon 18 May 2015

Briefing and Consultations on UN Assistance Mission in Somalia

Tomorrow (19 May), the Council will be briefed via video teleconference from Addis Ababa by Nicholas Kay, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), regarding the latest 120-day report of the Secretary-General. Maman Sidikou, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission for Somalia and head of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), is also expected to brief. Earlier today, Kay and Sidikou briefed the AU Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa.

Kay and Sidikou are likely to discuss the ongoing security threat posed by Al-Shabaab in Somalia and the region, as well as clan-based violence in Somalia. There have been numerous asymmetrical, terrorist attacks by Al-Shabaab, including at a university in Garissa, Kenya on 2 April. Other significant terrorist attacks by Al-Shabaab between February and April targeted private businesses and government buildings in Mogadishu and Baidoa, as well as a UN vehicle in Garowe. According to the Secretary-General’s report, recent clan-based violence in the south and central regions of Hiraan, Shabelle Hoose and Juba Hoose has resulted in 60 civilian deaths and 63 injuries. Meanwhile, clashes on 10 and 12 February in the central Galguduud region between Ahlu Sunna wal Jama (a moderate Islamist militia group opposed to Al-Shabaab) and pro-federal government militias resulted in at least 25 deaths and 56 injuries.

Council members are likely to want more information on the continuing efforts by AMISOM, the Somali National Army (SNA) and UNSOM to counter and mitigate the threat posed by Al-Shabaab. On 22 March, a joint AMISOM/SNA military offensive captured the island of Kuday near Kismayo, an important logistics base and the last remaining Al-Shabaab stronghold in the region. With technical assistance from UNSOM, the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) has developed the Guulwade (‘Victory’) Plan, to increase the SNA to 10,900 troops to expand joint operations with AMISOM. The plan outlines the SNA’s future arms and equipment needs and a framework for further development of SNA capacity. The Secretary-General in a 31 March letter to the Council announced an increase in Ugandan troops deployed to the UN Guard Unit from 410 to 530. Enabled partly by this extra security, the special political mission has relocated its headquarters from the Mogadishu International Airport to newly-constructed offices nearby at Villa Nabad.

Council members will also be interested in an update on the political situation in Somalia, particularly the status of the regional state formation process. On 27 February scheduled talks between the FGS and secessionist Somaliland were cancelled due to objections by Somaliland regarding the composition of the FGS delegation. The postponement of parliamentary and presidential elections in Somaliland until June 2016 (and possibly until March 2017) is also likely to be raised by Kay. On 12 April, Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke and the president of semi-autonomous Puntland, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali “Gaas”, issued a statement announcing Puntland’s commitment to contribute 3,000 troops to the SNA.

The humanitarian situation in Somalia continues to be very worrying, although extreme crisis was averted through ongoing humanitarian assistance and a favourable rainy season from October to December 2014. 730,000 Somalis, many of whom are internally displaced persons living in urban areas, are unable to meet basic food needs and another 2.3 million people are in a situation of “food security stress”. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the humanitarian appeal of $863 million is currently only 20 percent funded at $171 million. Increasing restrictions on $1.3 billion in global remittance transfers to Somalia, imposed in the context of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism measures, remain of particular concern for humanitarian actors. There are also more than 1 million Somali refugees within the region. In the aftermath of Al-Shabaab’s attack in Garissa, Kenya on 2 April, many of these refugees appeared to be at risk of being forcibly relocated back to Somalia. This prompted UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres to visit Somalia and Kenya. He received assurances from the Kenyan government that future refugee returns to Somalia from Kenya would only be voluntary, in accordance with the terms of the November 2013 Tripartite Agreement among Somalia, Kenya and UNHCR.

Tomorrow’s briefing and consultations will serve to help shape Council members’ views on the situation in Somalia in advance of the expected renewal of UNSOM’s mandate scheduled for adoption on 26 May. Council members may also request a preview of the conclusions and recommendations in the joint AU-UN report due to be released on 30 May. This report is based on the 15 to 25 April visit of a joint AU-UN team to Somalia and to AU headquarters to review benchmarks for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation, assess the impact of the AMISOM troop surge authorised in resolution 2124 and provide recommendations for future military strategy in Somalia.

Next month, it seems there will also be an informal interactive dialogue on AMISOM with Kay and Sidikou. This will provide another opportunity for Council members to better understand how the UN special political mission and the AU peacekeeping operation work together and how this may evolve in the future.

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