Somalia: Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow morning (22 February), the Security Council is scheduled to hold an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the situation in Somalia. Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Anita Kiki Gbeho will brief on the latest political, security, and humanitarian developments in the country. Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson (SRCC) for Somalia and head of the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) Mohamed El-Amine Souef, who assumed the role on 1 September 2022, is also expected to deliver his first briefing to the Council, via videoconference. Malta, February’s Council president, has also invited UN Women Executive Director Sima Sami Bahous to brief.
As one of the signatories to the Shared Commitments on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), Malta has chosen to have a WPS focus to this month’s regular Somalia meeting. Malta has circulated a concept note to help guide the discussion, which encourages Council members to address various aspects of the WPS agenda in their interventions at tomorrow’s meeting. The concept note highlights pertinent WPS-related issues raised in the Secretary-General’s reports on Somalia, reports on children and armed conflict, and recommendations made by UN Women as the secretariat of the Informal Expert Group (IEG) on WPS. Bahous is expected to provide a WPS perspective in her briefing and may draw attention to the heightened risks Somali women and girls face in the context of persistent insecurity and in light of the effects of the climate crisis and drought in the country.
The Council members which have signed on to the Shared Commitments on WPS—Albania, Brazil, Ecuador, France, Gabon, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, the UAE, and the UK—will read a joint statement on Somalia prior to the meeting.
The Secretary-General’s most recent report on UNSOM, which was published on 16 February and covers the period from 23 August 2022 to 7 February, notes the launching on 5 September 2022 of the Somali national action plan to implement the Somali Women’s Charter and Security Council resolution 1325 of 31 October 2000 on WPS. At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members may welcome these developments, while highlighting the need to implement this action plan to improve the situation of Somali women and ensuring their meaningful political participation.
In her briefing, Gbeho may describe the progress in implementing the Somali government’s priorities, which include promoting national reconciliation, strengthening the federal system and improving relations between Mogadishu and the federal member states, intensifying the fight against Al-Shabaab, finalising the constitutional review process and judicial reform, and addressing the humanitarian situation. She might refer to the signing of agreements on the allocation of powers between the federal and state levels during the National Consultative Council meeting in December 2022, which was chaired by President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud and involved the participation of the federal government and federal member states. Puntland, which declared its intention in a 9 January statement to act independently until the new Somali constitution is completed, did not sign these agreements. Since 2017, Somalia has been undergoing a constitutional review process to adopt a new federal constitution. Although this process was to be completed within two years, it has been significantly delayed.
Gbeho may also mention the political tensions in South-West State following a decision by the State Assembly to extend by one year the mandate of the federal member state’s president, Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed “Laftagareen”, to a five-year term. The tensions led to violence in December 2022, as state security forces clashed with opposition supporters in Baidoa, the capital of South-West State, resulting in several deaths and injuries. Gbeho may note the outcome of the reconciliation conference facilitated by President Mahmoud and the Speaker of the House of the People (the lower house of Somalia’s parliament), Sheikh Adan Mohamed Nur Madobe, from 17 January to 5 February in Baidoa, which concluded with an agreement on State Assembly and subsequent presidential elections to be held between November 2023 and January 2024.
The situation in Las Anod, a disputed area between Puntland and the breakaway region of Somaliland, is another possible focus of tomorrow’s meeting. Gbeho may describe the tense situation following the assassination of a local opposition politician that led to violent protests against the Somaliland government in December 2022. The protests resulted in at least 12 deaths and 59 injuries, and forced the withdrawal of Somaliland security forces from the area. Gbeho might note that although efforts have been made to de-escalate these tensions through dialogue with the involvement of clan leaders, the situation escalated anew in February, when clan leaders declared that the disputed area should be administered by the Somali federal government. This sparked clashes between Somaliland security forces and clan militias on 6 and 7 February, which reportedly left at least 37 civilians dead and 131 injured. In a 14 February statement, UNSOM, ATMIS, and other bilateral and regional partners strongly condemned the continued violence in Las Anod and called for restraint and dialogue to find pathways for a peaceful resolution of the situation.
Council members are expected to reiterate their concern about the persistent threat posed by Al-Shabaab. UNSOM recorded 1,524 security incidents, including 501 incidents of terrorism, during the period covered by the Secretary-General’s report. Al-Shabaab was responsible for most of these incidents, which targeted government, security forces, and civilians in urban centres across the country. Gbeho may reference the Heads of State summit chaired by President Mahmoud on 1 February in Mogadishu to mobilise regional support for the ongoing offensive operations against Al-Shabaab launched by the government in June 2022. At the summit, which was attended by the presidents of Djibouti and Kenya and the prime minister of Ethiopia, the leaders agreed to develop jointly an operational strategy against Al-Shabaab.
The dire humanitarian situation in the country is another expected focus of tomorrow’s meeting. Although relief efforts have staved off famine, the Secretary-General’s report indicates that famine “continues to be a strong possibility” from April to June if humanitarian assistance is not sustained and the coming rainy season produces less precipitation than anticipated. Almost half of the Somali population requires life-saving humanitarian assistance this year, and the Somalia Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), which was launched on 8 February, seeks to mobilise $2.6 billion to assist 7.6 million people in need. Gbeho and Council members may call for increased donor funding to address this major humanitarian challenge.
Souef is likely to focus on the support provided by ATMIS to the ongoing offensive operations against Al-Shabaab. He may stress the need for the Somali federal government to accelerate implementation of the Somalia Transition Plan (STP) and National Security Architecture (NSA) through effective force generation and the integration of regional forces into the national security forces in order to facilitate the drawdown of 2,000 ATMIS troops by 30 June, in line with resolution 2670 of 21 December 2022, which extended the operational timeline for ATMIS drawdown by six months. Souef may also speak about the funding challenges that ATMIS continues to face and call for additional and predictable funding to enable the mission to carry out its mandate effectively.
In an 11 November 2022 communiqué, the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) called for the convening of a joint AU-UN international pledging conference to mobilise the necessary resources for ATMIS. In resolution 2670, the Security Council decided to convene a meeting on the transition in Somalia no later than 31 March. This discussion is likely to be held in an informal interactive dialogue (IID) format, which allows for the participation of non-UN officials and briefers. Representatives from Somalia, the AU, the EU, and ATMIS troop-contributing countries are expected to participate in the meeting, which may address the financing issue, among other matters.
At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members may note the progress in the implementation of the government’s priorities and welcome the agreement on the distribution of powers between the federal government and the federal member states. They may encourage Somali political stakeholders to resolve differences through dialogue and compromise and call for the finalisation of the constitutional review process. Members may condemn the continued attacks perpetrated by terrorist groups and express support for the federal government’s renewed determination to combat this threat. They may call on the Somali government to advance the implementation of the STP and the NSA and note that they look forward to receiving the progress report that Somalia is expected to submit by 30 April in line with resolution 2670.