Security Council Visiting Mission to the Horn of Africa: Programme and Issues
This evening, Council members will embark on a visiting mission to Somalia, Kenya and Egypt. While the situation in Somalia will be the main focus of the trip, there will also be discussions on the situation in Libya during the visit to Egypt, where the Council will engage with the League of Arab States at its headquarter in Cairo. Other issues that will be addressed during the mission include the threat posed by terrorism and challenges stemming from recent increases in immigration flows, refugees and internally displaced persons. The Kenya and Egypt legs of the mission will be led by Egypt, while the Somalia leg will be co-led by Egypt and the UK.
When Council members last visited Mogadishu in August 2014, it was their first visit to Somalia in ten years. The fact that they will be returning to Mogadishu less than two years later reflects a heightened focus on the situation in Somalia this year, as the country is entering an important phase in its preparations for elections in August amidst continuing security challenges. The trip is particularly timely in relation to the Council’s work, as members are due to start discussions to extend the authorisation for the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) before the current authorisation expires on 30 May. In preparing for the visit to Mogadishu, Council members were able to get an update on recent developments from the Secretary-General’s latest quarterly report on Somalia (S/2016/430), which was submitted to the Council last week.
While in Mogadishu, Council members will meet with the Somali president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, and the speaker of parliament, Mohamed Osman Jawari, as well as other Somali officials, including members of the National Leadership Forum. As stated in the terms of reference for the mission, an important objective for the trip is to reiterate the Council’s expectation that elections will be held in August this year and that the roadmap towards universal elections in 2020 will be adhered to, while also calling for urgent completion of the federal state formation process and constitutional review process.
There seem to be continuing concerns about the slow pace of progress in the preparations for the elections, with the UN, AMISOM, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the EU, Ethiopia, Italy, Sweden, the UK and the US on 14 May expressing their “deep concern over the protracted process to approve the 2016 electoral model”, which was submitted to the Somali parliament on 30 April by Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke. Council members may express similar concerns and will be particularly interested in getting an update from Somali leaders on current progress in the various political processes under way. They are also expecting an update on the implementation of the government’s obligations relating to the partial suspension of the arms embargo under resolution 2244. In this context, the president may reiterate the call he made during the Council’s 19 April debate on Somalia for a full lifting of the arms embargo.
In Mogadishu, Council members will also engage with senior leadership of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), the UN Support Office for Somalia (UNSOS) and AMISOM to get updates on the implementation of their respective mandates. In addition, there will be meetings with civil society, including women’s groups.
Concerns about continuing security challenges are likely to permeate the discussions. In his recent report, the Secretary-General stated that the security situation had actually worsened during the reporting period despite some recent strategic military successes, and that it was essential to take effective measures against Al-Shabaab, in particular to ensure that the electoral process could be conducted in a safe and timely fashion. Council members will therefore be particularly interested in discussing ongoing efforts to improve the effectiveness of the Somali National Army and of AMISOM, including any progress with regard to the measures called for in recent Council resolutions as well as any follow-up to the 28 February Djibouti summit of AMISOM’s troop and police contributing countries (TCCs), such as strengthening the mission’s command and control structures and deploying critical force enablers. Council members will also be interested in an operational update regarding progress in the campaign against Al-Shabaab and future plans for offensive operations.
Other issues that will be addressed include the protection of civilians, including measures taken by AMISOM to reduce civilian casualties; the role of women and what the government is doing to promote the participation of women at all decision-making levels and to implement its commitment to reserve 30 percent of parliamentary seats for women; ongoing efforts to combat sexual and gender-based violence; implementation of the Somali government’s action plan to end the recruitment and use of children by the Somali army; and challenges in delivering humanitarian assistance.
A key focus for the programme in Nairobi will be humanitarian issues, as Council members will engage with the UN entities that are based there. In addition, there will be a meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and possibly other officials. According to the mission’s terms of reference, the purpose of this meeting will be “to engage with the Kenyan government on regional issues of interest” including AMISOM and refugees, and to discuss the risk of acts of terrorism by Al-Shabaab in Kenya. Kenya is AMISOM’s fourth largest TCC with 3,664 uniformed personnel out of a military component of 22,126, according to the latest figures on AMISOM’s website.
The situation for refugees in Kenya is likely to feature prominently in the discussions with both Kenyan officials and UN agencies, as Kenya on 6 May announced its intention to close down its refugee camps, citing security concerns as well as the economic burden of hosting the camps. The Somali government has expressed “grave reservation” over the decision, which it said would make the threat of terrorism worse, not better. Also reacting to the decision, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed “profound concern” and said such a closure could affect as many as 600,000 people. This would include the approximately 420,000 Somalis living in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. The UNHCR called on the Kenyan government to reconsider its decision and avoid taking any action that might be “at odds with its international obligations.” Many Council members seem to share these concerns and will want to hear more about Kenya’s intentions and the implications that such a decision would have on the ground.
Council members will want an update on the humanitarian situation in Somalia, including efforts to address the impact of the drought in Puntland and Somalia as well as funding needs. As noted in the Secretary-General’s recent report, the humanitarian situation remains fragile, with persistently high and alarming levels of food insecurity and malnutrition, and is expected to worsen because of the drought; 39 per cent of the population or 4.7 million people are considered food insecure. The Secretary-General also noted that humanitarian access remains a challenge and that attacks against humanitarian workers are on the rise. Council members may therefore be particularly interested in discussing what measures are being taken to address these challenges.
In Cairo, Council members will be meeting with the Arab League Council. With regard to Somalia, it seems discussions will be fairly general and will focus on areas of cooperation between the Security Council and the Arab League to support peace and reconciliation efforts in the country. Council members will also be looking for an update from its interlocutors with regard to future plans, as well as areas of existing support aimed at addressing the humanitarian needs of Somalia.
The objective of the discussions on Libya will be to exchange views on “challenges and opportunities for peace and reconciliation efforts in Libya”. It seems there will be a particular focus on efforts to support counter-terrorism activities as well as state institutions, capacity-building, rebuilding and revitalisation of the economy.
The last item on the agenda will focus on migration, refugees and displaced persons. This will include discussions on the security challenge resulting from massive movements of refugees and migrants from the Arab region and how to address root causes of migration, as well as regional strategies to combat smuggling and human trafficking.