What's In Blue

Somalia Sanctions Renewal

Tomorrow (15 November), the Security Council is set to adopt a resolution on the Somalia sanctions regime, renewing for one year the partial lifting of the arms embargo on Somali security forces, the authorisation for maritime interdiction to enforce the embargo on illicit arms imports and charcoal exports, and humanitarian exemptions to the regime. The resolution will also renew the mandate of the Somalia Panel of Experts until 15 December 2020.

On 25 October, the chair of the Somalia Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium), briefed the Council (S/PV.8647).  During this briefing, the UK, the penholder on Somalia, expressed its intention to put forward a draft resolution that consolidates the components of the sanctions regime in a single text in order to address the concerns of Somalia and other member states concerning the lack of clarity about the regime and its exemptions. Until now, different parts of the regime have been addressed in several resolutions. Accordingly, the resolution in blue, first shared with Council members on 7 November, consolidates all of the elements of the arms embargo and its partial lifting for Somali security forces, including exceptions and applicable humanitarian exemptions.

The draft in blue reaffirms the arms embargo on Somalia and decides that the delivery to Somali security forces of heavy weapons listed in its Annex A (such as surface-to-air missiles and weapons with a calibre greater than 12.7 mm) require advance approval by the Committee. It further decides that the delivery of lighter weapons to Somali security forces, namely those listed in its Annex B (such as smaller calibre weapons, as well as technical advice and training) require advance notification to the committee. The draft also reminds states of their obligation strictly to follow the notification procedure and expresses concern that they have not always fulfilled this obligation in the past.

The draft in blue reaffirms the longstanding exception to the arms embargo of delivery of military weapons, technical advice and training to the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the EU Training Mission (EUTM) in Somalia.

On targeted sanctions, the draft in blue recalls that the listing criteria include planning, directing or committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence. Based on a proposal made by Germany, new text was added to the resolution this year, requesting the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and the Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict to share relevant information with the committee. (Similar language can be found in other sanctions resolutions, such as resolution 2399 on the Central African Republic sanctions regime). The text also invites the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to share information with the committee, as appropriate.

During the 25 October briefing, Pecsteen de Buytswerve presented the final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the committee (S/2019/858). The report argues that Al-Shabaab remains a potent threat to regional peace and security and is responsible for many attacks against civilians in violation of international humanitarian law. It has forcibly recruited and abducted hundreds of children, targeted government officials, parliamentarians and humanitarian workers during the reporting period. The panel found that Al-Shabaab employed improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to kill and injure civilians in internally displaced persons camps, restaurants, marketplaces, shopping centres, government offices and hotels. To do so, Al-Shabaab has been manufacturing its own home-made explosives since at least July 2017 and most likely earlier. Given the prominence of IEDs in Al-Shabaab’s operations, the panel recommended that the arms embargo restrict Al-Shabaab’s access to chemical materials which it uses to construct IEDs.

To follow up on this recommendation, the draft resolution decides that states are to prevent the direct or indirect sale to Somalia of such chemicals—listed in the resolution’s Annex C of Section A—if evidence suggests that they will be used in IEDs. In addition, the delivery of such chemicals more generally will be subject to prior notification to the committee. Finally, states are to take appropriate measures to promote the exercise of caution by their nationals delivering other chemicals that can also potentially be used to make IEDs, including by tracking such shipments and sharing information with the Somali government and the Panel of Experts. A non-exhaustive list of such items is included in Section B of Annex C of the resolution.

Another issue the panel reports on is the utility of the charcoal ban. The report notes that no charcoal exports have been reported during the last year but, at the same time, domestic production of charcoal is prospering, and Al-Shabaab still profits from domestic production. In addition, the panel found that as Al-Shabaab maintains a highly diversified revenue base from the “taxation” of virtually all trade in the south of Somalia, the charcoal ban has not significantly affected its revenue flow and ability to continue its insurgency. The Panel of Experts, therefore, recommends carrying out a review of the charcoal ban, with a view to assessing its continued appropriateness.

The draft resolution condemns Al-Shabaab’s revenue production from natural resources, including charcoal, and its taxing of commodities such as sugar and agricultural production. The resolution does not recommend an assessment of the charcoal ban as such, but rather asks the Panel of Experts to assess Al-Shabaab’s revenue-generating structure more generally, to map its illegal taxation system, and to provide recommendations to the committee in order to improve the sanctions regime’s ability to target Al-Shabaab’s revenue.

While it does not seem that the sanctions measures were a matter of controversy, Council members differed during the negotiations on how to address Somali non-cooperation with the committee over the last year.  France, Germany, the UK and the US criticised Somalia during the 25 October briefing, maintaining that it has not cooperated with the panel during the last year, most notably by not allowing it to visit Somalia. (Somalia continues to be of the view that the arms embargo should be amended to allow it to import heavy weapons without authorisation from the sanctions committee and takes issue with the composition of the Panel of Experts and some of its findings).

During the negotiations, Council members differed in regard to the tone that the resolution should take with respect to Somalia’s lack of cooperation. Some members supported taking a forceful position on this issue, including by having the resolution set a deadline for a country visit by the panel. Others wanted a more conciliatory tone and took the position that including a strict deadline would be counterproductive and infringe on Somali sovereignty. As a compromise, the text in blue expresses ‘serious concern’ over the lack of Somali cooperation with a Security Council-mandated panel and urges Somalia to cooperate fully, including by setting dates for a country visit by the panel. It also urges Somalia to engage with the Council on a way forward in order for the Council to better assess its compliance with the sanctions regime.

Some disagreement also arose over references to the ongoing dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea. Resolution 2444 of 14 November 2018 lifted sanctions on Eritrea and, at the same time, requested the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council by 15 February 2019 and every six months thereafter on efforts by the parties peacefully to settle their border dispute and their dispute on the whereabouts of Djiboutian combatants missing in action. During this year’s negotiations, Council members such as China, Russia and South Africa wanted to delete all references to this issue. Other Council members wanted the Council to continue to be updated on the status of these efforts. The draft in blue incorporates language suggested by South Africa as part of a compromise, welcoming regional efforts to support the normalisation of relations between Eritrea and Djibouti. It also requests the Secretary-General to update the Council on any developments on this issue by 31 July 2020.

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