What's In Blue

UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Mandate Renewal

Tomorrow (27 March), the Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) for an additional year. It appears that there was consensus among Council members that UNSOM should maintain its core mandate. Thus, the mission will continue to provide strategic support and advice to the Federal Government of Somalia and the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on peacebuilding and state-building in the areas of governance; security sector reform and rule of law; development of a federal system; constitutional review; and coordination of international donor support. In addition, the mission will continue to assist the federal government in building its capacity to promote respect for human rights and women’s empowerment; to promote child protection; to prevent conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence; and to strengthen justice institutions. UNSOM will further continue to monitor and report on any abuses or violations of human rights or of international humanitarian law committed in Somalia, or any abuses committed against children or women.

The main point of contention during the negotiations was how to address Somalia’s decision to declare the Special Representative and head of UNSOM, Nicholas Haysom, persona non grata, at the end of 2018. The request to remove Haysom came after his criticism of the government’s decision to arrest former Al-Shabaab leader, Mukhtar Robow, a candidate for president of South West State. Robow, who left Al-Shabaab in 2013, was arrested by Somali police, backed by an AMISOM contingent, on 13 December 2018, ahead of the 19 December elections in South West State. While the state had accepted the candidature, the federal government demanded that the former militant be barred because of remaining US Treasury Department sanctions, stating that he had not “relinquished his extremist ideologies”, and kept him off the ballot. The arrest prompted several days of demonstrations in Baidoa, South West State, which turned violent. A Somali police officer and 14 civilians, including a local lawmaker, were killed. Somalia’s former state minister for trade, Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed, went on to win the election. UNSOM, AMISOM, the US, the EU and other international partners issued a joint statement condemning the violence and urging constructive dialogue to resolve political differences and address other challenges. In a 30 December 2018 letter to the Somali Minister of Interior Security, Abdi Farah Saeed “Juxa”, Haysom reportedly questioned the legal basis for Robow’s arrest and criticised the subsequent violence against demonstrators in Baidoa. In response, Foreign Minister Ahmed Isse Awad said that Haysom was no longer welcome in Somalia, telling the media that Haysom had “violated diplomatic rules”.

In the following days, both the Secretary-General and Council members pronounced themselves on this issue. On 3 January, the Secretary-General issued a statement expressing his confidence in Haysom, his regret over Somalia’s decision, and his intention to appoint a new Special Representative, to allow UNSOM to carry out its mandate effectively in support of Somalia. On 5 January, Council members issued a press statement expressing their regret at Somalia’s decision to declare Haysom persona non grata, taking note of the Secretary-General’s statement of 3 January, and reiterating their expectation of full cooperation between Somalia and the UN (SC/13657).

During the negotiations, some Council members wanted to stress concern over the incident and emphasise the need for cooperation between the mission and Somalia. Other Council members took the view that the Council had already pronounced itself on the issue in the press statement and that the mandate should be forward looking. On 22 March, the UK, the penholder on Somalia, put under silence a draft with language regarding cooperation between Somalia and the UN incorporated from the press statement, while also calling on Somalia to cooperate with the new Special Representative, when appointed. China, supported by a few other Council members, broke silence on the call for cooperation with the new Special Representative, on the basis that it over-emphasised a point already made in the language from the press statement. The draft in blue, which modifies the language slightly, has the Council reiterating “its expectation of full cooperation between Somalia and the UN, including the new SRSG when appointed.”

Another point of disagreement related to language about the Baidoa incident itself. On this issue, some Council members called for an investigation and for the accountability of Somali police responsible for human rights violations; other Council members opposed this approach, as they view these as domestic matters. In the end, the draft in blue calls upon the Federal Government and South-West State to address allegations of human rights violations and abuses prior to the South-West State elections.

A change from the current mandate concerns the reporting requirements. As opposed to the 120-day reporting requirement in the current mandate, the resolution in blue requests quarterly reporting from the Secretary-General on UNSOM.

In addition, the draft to be adopted contains an operative clause on the adverse effects of climate change, adding to climate and security language that is also in the preambular part from the last UNSOM mandate renewal. This new language calls on Somalia to consider the adverse implications of climate change, other ecological changes and natural disasters, among other factors, including by undertaking risk assessments and risk management strategies relating to these factors. It further requests the Secretary-General to provide information of such assessments in his reporting. The language on climate and security in the draft is similar to that agreed in other resolutions, such as resolution 2429 on the AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) of 13 July 2018. While climate and security language has increasingly been incorporated into Council outcomes over the past two years, the role of the Council regarding this issue remains politically sensitive to some members.

Another point of emphasis in the draft is the need for Somalia to address the slow progress in the implementation of its political priorities—such as the constitutional review process, preparations for elections in 2020-2021, and further defining the relationship between the federal government and the states—as well as the transition plan and the national security architecture.

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