Somalia: Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow morning (17 November), the Security Council is scheduled to hold an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the situation in Somalia. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) James Swan and Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson (SRCC) for Somalia and head of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Francisco Madeira will brief on the latest political, security and humanitarian developments in the country. They will also brief on the work of UNSOM and AMISOM. A civil society briefer is also expected.
Somalia’s electoral process is an expected focus of tomorrow’s meeting. Elections for Somalia’s upper house (the Senate), which began on 29 July, are now completed. The composition of the Senate, where women account for 26 percent of elected delegates, falls short of the 30 percent women’s quota, which was stipulated in a commitment made by the Somali government in a 17 September 2020 electoral agreement.
The Secretary-General’s latest report on Somalia, which was issued on 11 November and covers developments from 1 August to 4 November, attests to the slow progress in preparations for Somalia’s lower house (the House of the People) elections. A political agreement reached on 17 September 2020 stipulates that the country will hold indirect legislative and presidential elections, whereby clan representatives elect members of the House of the People, which in turn will elect the president. This is instead of direct one-person, one-vote elections, due to security and logistical challenges. The delay in conducting lower house elections also seems likely to stall the holding of the presidential elections, initially scheduled for 10 October but postponed with no new date yet announced.
The international community has repeatedly called for swift progress in the electoral process. On 5 November, Somalia’s International Partners—a group comprised of member states and multilateral organisations that are active in Somalia, including AMISOM, Canada, Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Kenya, Norway, Qatar, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, the US, the EU, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the UN—issued a statement expressing deep concern over the continued delays in the electoral process. They further urged the leaders of Somalia’s federal member states and all election management bodies to “complete inclusive and credible House of the People elections before the end of 2021, [while] respecting the 30 percent minimum quota for women”. Following the conclusion of the Senate election, International Partners, in a 15 November statement, welcomed this development while continuing to urge the Somali leadership, at all levels of government, to swiftly re-commence and complete the electoral process for the House of the People.
At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members are likely to echo these positions and express concern regarding the electoral delays, which have been compounded by a recent rift between Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble. Tensions between the two leaders increased in September because of disagreements over the handling of an investigation into the disappearance of a National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) staff member and subsequently over who should lead the agency. In late October, Farmajo and Roble announced that they had reached an agreement on NISA’s leadership and committed themselves to accelerating the election process. Some Council members may welcome this development and call for continued cooperation between the two leaders, in order to efficiently address the numerous other threats and challenges faced by Somalia.
During the Council’s last formal meeting on Somalia, which took place on 12 August, Swan affirmed that the UN stands ready to continue to “support Somalia in this election process and beyond”, so that the country can renew its focus on “core peace, security and development goals”. Several Council members are likely to call for a swift implementation of Somalia’s electoral agreements and a subsequent peaceful transfer of power. Some members may also advocate for increased participation of women in the political and public sphere.
The security situation in the country is also likely to be discussed at tomorrow’s meeting. The Secretary-General’s report expresses concern about Al-Shabaab’s continued ability to conduct attacks across Somalia. During the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report, the militant group was again responsible for most security incidents in the country. The Secretary-General’s report also attributes to Al-Shabaab some 56 percent of reported civilian casualties and approximately 53 percent of grave violations committed against children during the reporting period.
Madeira is likely to describe the support AMISOM provided to Somali authorities during the reporting period. This includes assistance in reducing Al-Shabaab’s capacities and in implementing Somalia’s Transition Plan, which outlines the gradual transfer of security responsibilities from international to Somali forces by 2023. The future security set-up in Somalia has been a source of disagreement among the AU, UN and Somalia, given that a 30 May independent AU assessment recommended an AU-UN hybrid mission funded by UN assessed contributions, while a UN-commissioned independent assessment requested by resolution 2520 of 29 May 2020 recommended a reconfiguration of the existing AMISOM mission—the option favoured by Somalia. The AU and the Somali federal government held several meetings to bridge the divergent views. The latest such meeting took place from 9 to 12 November, when an AU Peace and Security Council delegation visited Somalia and met with representatives of the federal government, AMISOM, civil society and international partners to discuss, among other things, current operations and the future of the AU mission.
Resolution 2568 of 12 March requested the Secretary-General to submit by the end of September a proposal, in consultation with the AU and the Somali federal government and donors, on the strategic objectives, size and composition of a future security set-up in Somalia. It also requested the Secretary-General to submit a proposal for associated UN logistical support by the end of October. In a 29 September letter, the Secretary-General asked the Council to extend the deadline for submission of the proposal on a future security set-up until the end of the year. This extension should allow more time for discussions on the future of AMISOM. The Security Council, in a letter dated 4 October, extended the deadline until 15 November.
At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members may seek further information on efforts to improve the security situation in the country, in preparation for the negotiations on AMISOM’s reauthorisation in December.
Council members are also likely to express concern regarding the humanitarian situation. The Secretary-General noted in his report that Somalia “remains one of the most difficult environments for humanitarian workers” and that ongoing conflict and violence create “immense obstacles” for humanitarian aid delivery. Climate shocks, diseases, and desert locust infestations are among the factors exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation, leaving some 5.9 million people in need of assistance. High levels of food insecurity reportedly affect nearly 3.5 million Somalis. The 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan for Somalia is approximately 50 percent funded (up from around 38 percent during the Council’s 12 August meeting). At tomorrow’s meeting, some briefers and Council members may express concern about the low levels of financial aid and call on donors to increase their support.