What's In Blue

Posted Wed 21 Jun 2023

Somalia: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (22 June), the Security Council is scheduled to hold an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the situation in Somalia. Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud is expected to attend the meeting. The UAE’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Shakhboot Bin Nahyan Al Nahyan, will chair the meeting. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Catriona Laing, who recently assumed her new responsibilities in Mogadishu, will brief. Other briefers are expected to include the Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson (SRCC) for Somalia and head of the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), Ambassador Mohamed El-Amine Souef, and Cindy McCain, the newly appointed Executive Director of WFP.

Laing is likely to refer to her engagements with the leaders of the federal government and federal member states since taking up her duties two weeks ago. She may note recent developments in the implementation of the government’s priorities, as described in the Secretary-General’s most recent report on UNSOM, which was published on 15 June and covers the period from 8 February to 8 June.  These priorities include promoting national reconciliation, strengthening the federal system, 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. In this regard, Laing may highlight some of the recent decisions adopted by the National Consultative Council, which brings together the leaders of the federal government and the federal member states, to advance these priorities, including a decision to adopt a one-person, one-vote electoral model for Somalia which will replace the clan-based formula that has traditionally been used to organise elections.

While some in Somalia have questioned the feasibility of this model and have urged broader public consultations on this issue, Laing may welcome the one-person, one-vote district council elections held in Puntland in May as a significant milestone in Somalia’s state-building endeavors. She is likely to mention that Puntland—which declared its intention in January to act independently until the finalisation of the new Somali constitution because of tensions over the distribution of power between the federal government and federal member states—remains absent in the National Consultative Council meetings. Laing may express concern over recent political tensions in Puntland as well.  President Deni’s efforts to change the regional state’s constitution in order to extend his term led to fighting that broke out between government forces and the opposition on 20 June in Garowe, the regional capital, reportedly leaving 26 people dead and a dozen others wounded.

Laing may also express alarm over the continued clashes in Las Anod, a disputed area between Puntland and Somaliland and the ongoing efforts, including by clan elders, to secure a ceasefire and facilitate dialogue between the parties to the conflict. After difficult negotiations lasting weeks over the format and content of a draft text, Council members issued a press statement on 7 June that welcomed efforts and initiatives by the Somali government, Ethiopia and clan elders to secure a ceasefire and promote inclusive national dialogue to address the situation in Las Anod. They also called on UNSOM to provide support to these mediation efforts in accordance with its mandate. While welcoming the statement, Somaliland expressed concerns about calls for the withdrawal of its forces, arguing that it has already done so while maintaining only what it called a “static defensive position” outside Las Anod.

Council members are expected to reiterate their concern about the persistent threat posed by Al-Shabaab. On 26 May, the group targeted an ATMIS forward operating base in Buulo Mareer, Lower Shabelle, killing an undisclosed number of Ugandan peacekeepers and injuring others. On 10 June, Al-Shabaab militants also stormed a popular hotel located at Lido Beach along Mogadishu’s coastline, killing nine people and injuring ten others. These attacks again demonstrated the group’s capabilities despite the ongoing offensive operations against it. Media reports indicate that a recent airstrike by Somalia’s international partners targeted a meeting place of Al-Shabaab leaders near Kismayo, the capital of Jubaland. For her part, Laing may refer to the Frontline States initiative, the outcome of a 1 February heads of state summit of regional leaders in Mogadishu which is designed to build on recent military gains in the offensive operations against Al-Shabaab in central Somalia. At the summit, the regional leaders agreed to develop jointly an operational strategy against Al-Shabaab.

Souef is likely to focus on the support provided by ATMIS to the ongoing offensive operations against Al-Shabaab. He may describe the progress in drawing down 2000 ATMIS personnel by 30 June and preparations for a further drawdown of 3000 personnel by 30 September.  In this regard, he may highlight the outcome of the ATMIS troop-contributing countries (TCCs) summit held on 27 April in Entebbe, Uganda, and the agreement reached regarding the procedure for the drawdown. Souef may reiterate the need for the Somali federal government to accelerate the 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 so as to facilitate the handover of security responsibilities from ATMIS to the Somali security forces. Without progress on this issue, there seems to be a concern—reinforced by the recent Al-Shabaab attacks– about leaving a security vacuum that the organization could exploit.  Souef may also address the funding challenges that ATMIS continues to face and their effect on the mission’s drawdown. He may reiterate the AU’s request for a special session on predictable, adequate, sustainable and multi-year funding for ATMIS until December 2024, when the mission is expected to be disbanded and fully transition to Somali security forces.

President Mahmoud is likely to reiterate Somalia’s repeated calls for the lifting of the arms embargo imposed under the 751 Al-Shabaab sanctions regime. He may refer to the 28 April AU Peace and Security Council communiqué in support of Somalia’s request, as the country prepares to take over security responsibilities from ATMIS. The 14th IGAD ordinary summit held in Djibouti on 12 June also expressed similar support in its communiqué and “called for the lifting of arms embargoes and sanctions that obstruct the full capacitation of Somali security forces to combat Al-Shabaab and other similar threats to national security”. In the Security Council, Somalia is likely to rely on the support of the three African members (Gabon, Ghana and Mozambique) and other like-minded members such as the UAE to push its case.

Mahmoud may reaffirm his government’s readiness to take over security responsibilities following the withdrawal of the 2000 ATMIS personnel by the end of this month and mention the efforts made to generate the necessary forces with the support of bilateral partners. He may also explain the cooperation with frontline states in the ongoing offensive operations against Al-Shabaab.

McCain is likely to focus on the impact of climate change in exacerbating the humanitarian situation and describe her first field trip to Somalia in May as the new WFP Executive Director, including her visit to an internally displaced persons camp in Dolow, a town in the drought-affected Gedo region close to the border with Ethiopia. Malta, Mozambique, Switzerland, and the UAE, which announced a “Statement of joint pledges related to climate, peace and security” in March, are also expected to have a joint press stakeout ahead of tomorrow’s meeting to highlight this issue.

At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members may reiterate their strong condemnation of the continued attacks perpetrated by Al-Shabaab and express support for the federal government’s renewed determination to combat the threat posed by terrorism and violent extremism in Somalia. They may call on the Somali government to accelerate the implementation of the STP and the NSA as a decisive factor for the ATMIS drawdown. The Council members are expected to renew the ATMIS mandate prior to its 30 June expiration. At the time of writing, Council experts are negotiating a draft resolution proposed by the UK, the penholder on Somalia, to renew the ATMIS mandate.

Sign up for What's In Blue emails

Subscribe to receive SCR publications