Somalia: Vote on UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Mandate Renewal*
Tomorrow (26 May), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) for a period of five months, until 31 October.
The draft text is a straightforward renewal of UNSOM’s mandate that does not make substantive changes to the mission’s core mandated tasks, which were set out in resolution 2158 of 29 May 2014 and most recently extended in resolution 2592 of 30 August 2021. It requests the Secretary-General, following consultations with the Somali federal government, to undertake a strategic review of UNSOM and submit a report on its findings to the Security Council by 30 September.
It seems that the negotiations on the draft resolution were smooth. The UK, the penholder on Somalia, circulated the first draft on 13 May and convened one round of negotiations on 18 May. A revised draft was placed under silence on 20 May until Monday (23 May). No Council member broke silence and the draft was placed in blue on 23 May.
The negotiations were apparently informed by recent developments in Somalia, namely the conclusion of the country’s long-delayed electoral process. On 15 May, Somalia held a presidential poll and elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who served as the country’s president from 2012 to 2017. A peaceful transfer of power from former president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo” to Mohamud took place on 23 May. That day marked the end of a protracted electoral process that had been hampered by organisational difficulties, including due to Somalia’s precarious security situation; allegations of the federal government’s attempts to influence the outcome; the attempt by President Farmaajo to extend his and the lower house’s term with a view to organise direct one-person-one-vote elections; and a strained relationship between Farmaajo and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble.
It seems that the penholder suggested the five-month straightforward renewal of UNSOM’s mandate to allow time for a new government to form and for that government’s priorities to inform any potential changes to UNSOM’s mandate in October. This timeframe also allows for an assessment of the mission, whose findings could be considered when the Council reviews the mandate at a later stage as the post-electoral political landscape becomes clearer. (Resolution 2592 requested the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic review of UNSOM “after the election process has concluded” and to report to the Council by the end of March. Due to delays in holding Somalia’s elections, the review could not be completed by the March deadline.) The rationale for the five-month mandate was apparently acceptable to all Council members. As such, the duration of the mission’s mandate and the timing of the strategic review were not major matters of discussion, unlike during last year’s negotiations on resolution 2592. (For background, see our 29 August 2021 What’s in Blue story.)
The UK apparently proposed a short draft resolution, seeking not to open discussions on many substantive additions. There were some deliberations, however, on language proposed by the penholder relating to the elections and the subsequent government formation. It seems that the UK and several other Council members, including European Council members, argued that it is important to reference the conclusion of Somalia’s election, as it represents a major milestone for the country. Russia, on the other hand, apparently objected to referencing the elections, expressing the view that adding more substantive language to the text would open it to further amendments and contradict the intent of having a succinct straightforward renewal.
The draft text, which was placed under silence procedure on 20 May, welcomed the conclusion of the electoral process. It further underscored that a peaceful formation of an inclusive federal government, with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women, would help the country to advance its national priorities, promote national reconciliation and security, and facilitate progress in the gradual handover of security responsibilities from international forces to the government, in line with the Somalia Transition Plan (STP) and National Security Architecture. It appears that the language on the participation of women was added at the request of Norway and Mexico and was supported by several other members. It seems that no Council member raised objections to this formulation and the draft passed silence on 23 May and was put in blue, to be voted tomorrow (26 May).
On 23 May, the Council convened to discuss the situation in Somalia. Special Representative and head of UNSOM James Swan and Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson (SRCC) for Somalia and head of the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) Francisco Madeira briefed. Madeira briefed via videoconference from Nairobi, as he was declared persona non grata in Somalia on 6 April by Roble. (Madeira was outside the country at the time, and has not returned.) The briefers and Council members welcomed the conclusion of the elections, the peaceful transfer of power, and the priorities presented by Mohamud, which include promoting national reconciliation and improving the country’s security situation.
Swan and Madeira emphasised the need to now focus on achieving conditions for the holding of direct elections, a prerequisite of which is a substantial improvement in Somalia’s security situation and the degradation of the terrorist organisation Al-Shabaab.
Several Council members called for sustained financial attention to Somalia, including the need for increased funding for ATMIS. The A3 (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya) reiterated their call to Somalia’s international partners to ensure sustainable and predictable funding for ATMIS to enable it to hand over security responsibilities to the Somali forces over the next 30 months. Several Council members, including France, India, Ireland, Norway, and the United Arab Emirates, referenced the dire humanitarian situation in the country and called on donors to support Somalia’s Humanitarian Response Plan.
China and Russia referenced the UNSOM mandate renewal, with China expressing support for the renewal without substantive changes, especially in light of the upcoming strategic review; Russia noted that it is looking forward to the strategic review, expressed concern over the recent spate of Al-Shabaab attacks, and maintained that the spike is indicative of improved Al-Shabaab capabilities. Russia said that the ATMIS drawdown should be carried out based on improvements on the ground and not in accordance with the timelines contained in resolution 2628 of 31 March, which outlined ATMIS’ mandate.
*Post-script: On 26 May, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2632, extending the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) until 31 October. The resolution does not make any substantive changes to UNSOM’s core mandated tasks. It requests the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic review of the mission and submit a report on its findings to the Council by 30 September.