What's In Blue

Somalia Sanctions Renewal*

Tomorrow (12 November), the Security Council is set to adopt a resolution on the Somalia sanctions regime, renewing 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 2021.

On 28 October, the chair of the Somalia Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Philippe Kridelka (Belgium), briefed the Council. Kridelka highlighted a number of elements from the Panel of Experts’ final report, including Al-Shabaab’s sophisticated taxation regime, the dire humanitarian situation in Somalia, the ongoing implementation of the ban on components for improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and details about the relationship between the sanctions committee and the Federal Government of Somalia.

After he spoke, China, Germany, Russia, the US, and the UK—which acts as penholder for Somalia issues—took the floor to express their positions, which served as a preview for the negotiations that took place on the draft resolution. The UK noted the scale of the implementation challenge ahead and underlined the importance of the humanitarian exemption. Germany and the US both called for the renewal of the sanctions measures in their current form, as outlined in resolution 2498.

Meanwhile, China reiterated its view that sanctions cannot last forever and that the Somali government’s requests for the easing of sanctions must be given due consideration. China also said that relevant parts of the sanctions regime should be updated to meet Somalia’s need to strengthen its security institutions. Russia echoed this, saying that the sanctions regime cannot be an impediment to the Somali National Army’s ability to take on more security responsibilities.

The UK circulated the first version of the draft resolution during the week of 2 November and held two rounds of negotiations during that week as well. A draft was put under silence until the afternoon of 9 November. Silence was broken by China and Russia. No further compromises could be reached, and the resolution was put into blue without addressing China and Russia’s objections.

As has been the case for a few years now, the sanctions measures themselves were not a matter of controversy. The main elements of the sanctions regime have largely remained intact, such as upholding the partial lifting of the arms embargo and the humanitarian exemptions. One significant change is that exemptions to the arms embargo—such as the delivery of weapons, training, and technical advice, among other things, to the Somali National Security Forces—are now open-ended. In prior resolutions, these exemptions were put in place for one year. With this change, it seems that the UK is again trying to streamline the sanctions requirements.

The draft also maintains the language, newly added in 2019, designed to prevent the entry into Somalia of components and chemicals needed for the construction of IEDs. The draft resolution also changes, as requested by the Panel of Experts, the number of reports the Panel is expected to produce. Previously, the Panel had been required to submit monthly reports, a periodicity which the experts felt did not provide adequate time to create analytical reports. Instead, the Panel suggested requiring four reports annually with a focus on thematic issues, in addition to the mid-term and final reports. In line with this recommendation, the draft resolution “requests the Panel to provide regular updates to the Committee, including a minimum of four different thematic reports, a comprehensive mid-term update and, for the Security Council’s consideration, through the Committee, a final report by 15 October 2021”.

Russia and China also continued to hold objections about human rights language present in the draft resolution. This language was maintained in the draft, however.

Council members continue to have divergences on other parts of the resolution that do not have direct impact on the implementation of the arms embargo or other aspects of the sanctions regime. Once again, disagreement 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. In resolution 2498, adopted last year, the Council requested the Secretary-General to provide the Council with an update on “any further developments towards the normalisation of relations between Eritrea and Djibouti” by 31 July 2020 despite objections from China, Russia and South Africa. These Council members believe that this is a bilateral issue that no longer warrants mentioning in a Council resolution, and that all language regarding Djibouti-Eritrea should be deleted. The request for such an update by 31 July 2021 was included in this year’s draft, even though the Council did not discuss the Secretary-General’s update from earlier this year, which was around two pages long and came out in July. While members had considered discussing the update under “any other business,” they did not do so.

Russia did not approve of new language in the draft resolution that noted the ongoing maritime efforts to implement the charcoal ban and called for further cooperation between the UNODC and other actors, “including European Naval Force Operation Atalanta, Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and other naval forces in the region”. In particular, Russia objected to what it considered the singling out of the EU operation over what it considered to be an effort by various actors. As a compromise, the UK toned down the references to EU naval engagement in the region.

Finally, China suggested that the draft resolution include benchmarks that would eventually lead to the end of the sanctions regime. Such benchmarks could address Somalia’s repeated desires to see the arms embargo lifted in order to better equip its security forces to fight against Al-Shabaab and improve overall security in the country. Some members, however, do not believe that the situation in Somalia has improved enough to begin discussing benchmarks. In the end, the draft resolution says that the Council “shall keep the situation in Somalia under constant review and…shall be prepared to review the appropriateness of the measures contained in this resolution, including any modification, possible benchmarks, suspension or lifting of the measures, as may be needed in light of the progress achieved and compliance with this resolution”.


*Post-script: On 12 November, the Security Council adopted resolution 2551 renewing 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 also renewed the mandate of the Somalia Panel of Experts until 15 December 2021. The resolution received 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia).

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