What's In Blue

Posted Wed 18 Oct 2023

Somalia: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (19 October), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the situation in Somalia. The expected briefers are Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Catriona Laing and Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson (SRCC) for Somalia and head of the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) Mohamed El-Amine Souef.

In her briefing, Laing may describe the progress in implementing the Somali government’s priorities, as set out in the Secretary-General’s most recent report on UNSOM, which was circulated to Council members on 13 October (S/2023/758) and covers the period from 8 June to 5 October. These priorities include promoting national reconciliation, strengthening the federal system, improving the relationship 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.

Laing might 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 the Somali government’s priorities. On 26 and 27 August, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud convened the seventh meeting of the National Consultative Council. In a communiqué adopted following the meeting, the Council decided to unify the military operations against Al-Shabaab under joint leadership and to accelerate preparations for the second phase of the offensive against Al-Shabaab in Jubaland, Hirshabelle, and South West states. It also directed the Somali government and federal member state agencies to harmonise stabilisation activities and accelerate reconciliation efforts.

In resolution 2687 of 27 June, which most recently renewed ATMIS’ authorisation, the Security Council requested the UN to work with Somalia and the AU to conduct, by 30 September, an independent assessment of Somalia’s stabilisation needs. It seems that this report was circulated to Council members on 3 October. It apparently emphasises the need for targeted and deliberate strategies for including women, as well as marginalised and minority groups, in the pre-recovery, recovery, and post-recovery phases. It seems that the report adds that UNSOM is well positioned to play an important role in convening the wider stabilisation sector in support of the Somali government, with an emphasis on such issues as fundraising and resource mobilisation, joint strategizing and planning, and supporting improved information and data sharing.

Souef and some Council members may take note of the Somali government’s 19 September letter to the President of the Security Council, which requested a three-month technical pause in the drawdown of 3,000 ATMIS personnel, which was due to take place by 30 September, in line with resolution 2687. The letter said that Somali forces suffered significant setbacks in connection with a 26 August attack by Al-Shabaab in the Galguduud region and retreated from several towns that they had recently taken. It added that such incidents have exposed the Somali forces’ vulnerabilities on the frontlines and have necessitated a thorough reorganisation to sustain momentum in countering threats from Al-Shabaab. (For more information, see the Somalia brief in our October Monthly Forecast.) In a 28 September letter, the Council requested the Secretary-General to pause the planned changes to the support provided by the UN Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) to ATMIS and to Somali personnel, which were to start on 1 October 2023.

In a 30 September communiqué, the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) expressed support for the Somali government’s request regarding the three-month technical pause in the drawdown of 3,000 ATMIS personnel. It also took note of the shortfalls in the financial resources that could impede the operationalisation of the requested technical pause. The communiqué directed the AU Commission (the organisation’s secretariat) to consider several options to mobilise resources for the requested extension. These include engaging with the Somali government to mobilise its internal resources, including approaching its bilateral partners to support the financing of the requested extension; engaging bilateral and multilateral partners, as well as the private sector, to explore support options for the extension, including the organisation of a pledging conference; and engaging AU member states for voluntary contributions.

At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members are expected to reiterate their concern about the persistent threat posed by Al-Shabaab. During the period covered by the Secretary-General’s UNSOM report, the mission recorded 605 security incidents, including 173 incidents of terrorism. The report also noted that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) remained a prominent weapon for Al-Shabaab. A total of 255 IED attacks were recorded during the reporting period, resulting in 692 casualties.

Council members may reiterate their strong condemnation of the continued attacks perpetrated by Al-Shabaab and express support for the federal government’s efforts 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 Somalia Transition Plan and the National Security Architecture as a decisive factor for the ATMIS drawdown.

Council members have been following closely the situation in Las Anod—a disputed area between Puntland and the self-proclaimed region of Somaliland and the capital of the Sool region—since the outbreak of fighting in the area in early February between Somaliland security forces and the local Dhulbahante clan. In February, Dhulbahante clan elders in Sool announced their intention to form their own independent federal state in Somalia, named SSC-Khaatumo, to be comprised of the Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn regions. Following fighting on 25 August, SSC-Khaatumo forces announced that they had taken control of the entire Sool and Sanaag regions. At tomorrow’s meeting, Laing is expected to update Council members about ongoing efforts to de-escalate the situation on the ground and facilitate dialogue between the parties to the conflict. Some Council members are expected to voice concern about persisting insecurity in the region and its impact on the humanitarian situation, as well as to express support for UNSOM’s efforts to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the conflict. (For more information, see our 6 September What’s in Blue story.)

The dire humanitarian situation in the country is another expected focus of tomorrow’s meeting. The Secretary-General’s report indicated that humanitarian needs in Somalia remain high due to persistent climatic and environmental shocks, conflict, population displacement, widespread poverty, disease outbreaks, and other compounding factors. According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) projections, around 4.3 million people are expected to experience high levels of acute food insecurity between October and December. A 9 October OCHA press release noted that at least 1.2 million people are likely to be affected by projected heavy rains and flooding through December. In this regard, the Somalia Humanitarian Fund has allocated $15 million for flood response, targeting high-risk areas in Hirshabelle and Jubaland states.

At tomorrow’s meeting, the briefers and several Council members are likely to call for enhanced funding from the international community to support the humanitarian response. At the time of writing, Somalia’s 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan, requiring $2.6 billion, was only 39.5 percent funded.

Some Council members might also express concern about increasing incidents of violence against children in Somalia. The Secretary-General’s most recent report on UNSOM noted that, from 8 June to 30 September, the country task force on monitoring and reporting on grave violations against children (CTFMR) verified 826 grave violations against 804 children, a 67 percent increase compared to the previous reporting period. (The six grave violations are child recruitment and use; killing and maiming; abductions; rape and other forms of sexual violence; attacks on schools and hospitals; and the denial of humanitarian access.)

Looking ahead, Council members are expected to renew UNSOM’s mandate ahead of its 31 October expiry. Members are currently negotiating a draft resolution on the matter proposed by the UK, the penholder on Somalia.

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