Votes to Renew the Sanctions Regime on Al-Shabaab and to Lift the Arms Embargo on the Somali Government*
This afternoon (1 December), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution, under the agenda item “Peace and security in Africa”, renewing for one year the sanctions regime on Al-Shabaab, including the authorisation for maritime interdiction to enforce the embargo on illicit arms imports, the charcoal exports ban, and the improvised explosive device (IED) components ban. The draft text, which was authored by the UK (the penholder on Somalia), also renews the mandate of the Panel of Experts until 15 January 2025 and expresses the Council’s intention to review the panel’s mandate no later than 15 December 2024.
The Security Council also is expected to vote on a second UK-authored draft resolution, under the agenda item “The situation in Somalia”, that fully lifts the arms embargo on the Somali government, which was established by resolution 733 of 23 January 1992 and amended through subsequent resolutions.
It seems that the penholder decided to pursue two draft resolutions after the Somali government sent a letter to the Council, dated 16 November, which proposed two distinct resolutions on the sanctions measures: one articulating the lifting of the arms embargo on the Somali government and outlining Somalia’s commitments and obligations to enhance weapons and ammunition management, and another focusing on the measures imposed on Al-Shabaab. The letter argued that distinguishing and incorporating these elements in separate resolutions would contribute to the coherence and effectiveness of these resolutions.
Resolution 2607 of 15 November 2021 requested the Secretary-General to conduct a technical assessment of Somalia’s weapons and ammunition management capabilities and present options on initial benchmarks that could assist the Council with a review of the sanctions regime. The Secretary-General’s report, which was submitted on 15 September 2022, said that “Somalia is on a positive trajectory in its management of weapons and ammunition” but noted continuing challenges that needed to be addressed by the federal government and the federal member states.
Resolution 2662 of 17 November 2022, which most recently renewed the sanctions regime on Al-Shabaab for one year, requested the Secretary-General to provide an update on progress against each indicator set out in the benchmarks contained in his 15 September 2022 technical assessment report on Somalia’s weapons and ammunition management capacity. The resolution also confirmed that the Council would keep all required notification processes and exemptions under review.
The progress report, which was published on 15 September, said that there have been notable achievements in weapons marking and registration. It noted that acute challenges remain, however, including in extending weapons and ammunition management to the federal member states’ level. The report added that countering the illicit flow of arms and ammunition into Somalia also remains a critical issue.
Draft Resolution on the Al-Shabaab Sanctions Regime
The UK circulated an initial draft of the text to Council members on 31 October and convened one round of negotiations on 2 November. The penholder circulated a revised draft on 7 November. It appears that the UK wanted to allow time for further deliberations to address the various inputs and positions on the sanctions regime’s renewal and therefore tabled for a vote a technical rollover of the sanctions regime until 1 December. The text was adopted unanimously as resolution 2711 on 15 November. Following consultations with Somalia and additional negotiations among Council members, the UK placed a new text under silence procedure until Thursday (29 November). Russia broke silence, after which some Council members—including China, France, and the US—submitted comments. Yesterday (30 November), the penholder put a revised draft directly in blue.
In response to the Somali government’s concerns, the penholder proposed the full lifting of the arms embargo imposed on the government, including the provision for advance notification by the Somali government of any deliveries of weapons and military equipment to Somali security and police institutions. The UK reorganised the draft resolution and introduced several new elements to reflect a clear focus on countering the threat posed by Al-Shabaab. The draft resolution in blue, in its preambular section, determines that Al-Shabaab’s attempts to undermine peace and security in Somalia and the region, including through acts of terrorism, constitute a threat to international peace and security.
The draft resolution in blue changes the name of the “Al-Shabaab Sanctions Committee established pursuant to resolution 751 (1992)” to the “Committee established pursuant to resolution [number to be allocated once the draft resolution in blue is adopted]”. The draft text similarly changes the name of the Panel for Experts that would support the committee to match the new resolution number.
It seems that although Council members generally agreed with the penholder’s approach, there were some disagreements during the negotiations. As in previous years, one of the most divisive issues centred on references to the dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea. The relationship between the two countries has been addressed in Somalia-related sanctions resolutions since the adoption of resolution 1907 of 23 December 2009, which imposed sanctions on Eritrea because of its support to Al-Shabaab and other groups that aim to destabilise the region or incite violence in Djibouti, among other things. (For background, see our 16 November 2022 What’s in Blue story.)
The initial draft circulated by the penholder apparently did not reference the Djibouti-Eritrea dispute. On 6 November, Djibouti sent a letter to the Security Council explaining its position on the need for the Council to follow developments towards the normalisation of relations between the two countries. On 8 November, Eritrea also submitted a letter to the Council arguing that the status of the relationship between the two countries is a bilateral matter and does not warrant follow-up or discussion by the Security Council.
Subsequently, at France’s request, the UK added language in the revised draft which reaffirmed the Council’s continued interest in following developments towards the normalisation of relations between the two countries and requested the Secretary-General to provide an update on developments regarding this issue no later than 31 July 2024. Russia strongly opposed this reference, however, echoing Eritrea’s view.
As a compromise, the penholder removed any reference to the Djibouti-Eritrea dispute from the draft resolution in blue and proposed that the Council issue a letter responding to the respective letters received from Djibouti and Eritrea. At the time of writing, a draft of the letter was under a no objection procedure.
The penholder apparently proposed modifying the reporting requirement for the Somali government outlined in resolution 2662. Although some Council members, such as China and Russia, opposed this proposal, the UK retained the language in the draft resolution in blue. The draft text therefore calls on the Somali government to include in its reporting, among other things:
- a description of Somalia’s infrastructure in place to ensure the safe storage, registration, maintenance and distribution of weapons, ammunition and military equipment, and any capacity-building requirements in this regard;
- a consolidated list of the weapons, ammunition, and military equipment imported in the reporting period, including the manufacturer, type, calibre, and lot/batch and serial numbers; and
- a description of the procedures and codes of conduct in place for registration, distribution, use, and storage of weapons, and any capacity-building requirements in this regard.
It appears that Council members also discussed the issue of due process during the negotiations. The draft resolution in blue contains new preambular and operative language on this issue, which was proposed by Switzerland and supported by some Council members. The operative paragraph expresses the Council’s intention to support further development of fair and clear procedures for the delisting of individuals and entities designated pursuant to resolution 1844 of 20 November 2008, which imposed targeted sanctions, and amended subsequently.
It seems that one of the other major issues during the negotiations was references proposed by the penholder on “licensed private security companies” operating in Somalia. It appears that while some members, such as the US, supported the penholder’s approach, some other members, including China and Russia, expressed reservations about including such references. It seems that this language was retained over these members’ objections. The draft resolution in blue encourages the Somali government to share with the Sanctions Committee a list of “licensed private security companies” operating in Somalia that shall be allowed to import weapons, ammunition, and military equipment required for static and mobile protection. It also introduces an exemption for the “licensed private security companies” operating in Somalia, alongside Somalia’s federal member states and regional governments, except in relation to items listed in the relevant annexes to the resolution. In this regard, the draft text in blue also includes new notification requirements for these entities for the delivery of items listed in the annexes.
Draft Resolution Lifting the Arms Embargo on the Somali Government
In an apparent attempt to respond to the Somali government’s 16 November letter, the UK circulated on 24 November a separate draft text to Council members in parallel to the negotiations on the Al-Shabaab sanctions renewal. After receiving comments, the penholder shared a revised draft and placed it under silence procedure until Thursday (29 November), which was broken by Russia. The penholder then placed another revised text under silence procedure, which was again broken by Russia in relation to a reference to the dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea. This necessitated a further revision of the text, which was then put directly in blue yesterday (30 November).
The draft resolution in blue expresses the Council’s decision to lift the arms embargo imposed on the Somali government, recognising the progress made by the government against the benchmarks outlined in resolution 2662, as mentioned in the 15 September progress report.
The draft resolution also outlines the Somali government’s commitments and obligations to further enhance weapons and ammunition management. Among other matters, the draft text in blue calls on the federal government to:
- implement its National Weapons and Ammunition Management Strategy;
- establish an ammunition accounting system and build sufficient armouries and ammunition storage areas to strengthen the capacity of stockpile management; and
- take all necessary measures to ensure that weapons, ammunition, and military equipment imported for use by the Somali government, national army, national police force, national intelligence and security agency, and Somali custodial corps, as well as licenced private security companies, are not resold to, transferred to, or made available for use by any individual or entity not in the service of the Somali government.
The draft resolution in blue also calls on the international community to continue to provide additional support to developing weapons and ammunition management capacity in Somalia, including at the federal and local level, with a particular focus on weapons and ammunition storage; technical assistance; and capacity-building on marking, recordkeeping, tracing, and disposal. It also encourages respective partners to coordinate their efforts to support Somalia in implementing the provisions of the draft text in blue.
*Post-script (1 December, 5:40 pm EST): On 1 December, the Security Council adopted resolution 2713, renewing for one year the sanctions regime on Al-Shabaab, including the authorisation for maritime interdiction to enforce the embargo on illicit arms imports, the charcoal exports ban, and the improvised explosive device (IED) components ban. The resolution also renews the mandate of the Panel of Experts until 15 January 2025 and expresses the Council’s intention to review the panel’s mandate no later than 15 December 2024. The resolution was adopted with 14 votes in favour and one abstention (France).
On the same day, the Security Council also unanimously adopted resolution 2714, lifting the arms embargo on the Somali government, which was established by resolution 733 of 23 January 1992 and amended through subsequent resolutions.
**Post-script (4 December): In the evening of 1 December, Council members agreed on the contents of a letter responding to the letters received from Djibouti and Eritrea on 6 and 8 November, respectively. The letter notes that the Council continues to follow developments towards the normalisation of relations between Eritrea and Djibouti. It expresses regret regarding the lack of progress on the outstanding issues between the two countries, including the settlement of the unresolved border dispute, and ongoing reports of Djiboutian combatants missing in action. At the same time, the Council welcomed the fact that “there have been no negative events reported”. The letter adds that “[s]hould the situation change, or the circumstances warrant its attention, the Security Council will consider its options as it would in any other context”.
Several Council members made statements following the vote. In his remarks, Permanent Representative of France to the UN Nicolas de Rivière said that his country abstained on the resolution renewing the sanctions regime on Al-Shabaab because it did not refer to the territorial dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea. While arguing that this dispute still poses a threat to international peace and security, he added that “the Council must play its full role of prevention in the face of such threats and take account of all security risks in the region including territorial disputes”.
In her explanation of vote, Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN Anna Evstigneeva said that during the negotiations on the draft Al-Shabaab sanctions resolution, Russia had questions about language in the text referring to the automatic exemption from the sanctions regime for arms transfers to “private military companies”. She noted that “although the resolution refers to the fact that they must be licensed by the Somali Government, the Security Council still has no list of those”. She added that Russia “trust[s] that Mogadishu will take a responsible approach to this process and prevent an increase in the militarization of the Horn of Africa”.