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Somalia and Eritrea

Expected Council Action

In March, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), which expires on 31 March.

The Council is also expected to receive a briefing in consultations from the Chair of the 751/1907 Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Kairat Umarov (Kazakhstan). 

Key Recent Developments

On 24 January, Special Representative and head of UNSOM Michael Keating briefed the Council on the latest report of the Secretary-General. Speaking one year after Somalia’s peaceful transition of power and the election of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo, Keating commended the government’s national agenda, which embraces financial reform, job creation, inclusive politics, conflict resolution, and reform of the security sector, stressing that the focus is now on the essential task of developing a plan for security transition. He outlined a number of major challenges faced by the government in implementing its agenda—including the mobilisation of adequate technical and financial capacity, ensuring coherent and coordinated approaches by both national and international actors, and successfully managing such powerful constituencies as the federal member states, parliamentarians, clan power brokers, the private sector, and international partners. 

Addressing the state-building process, Keating highlighted the need for progress in three key areas: review of the provisional federal constitution, preparation for the 2020-2021 elections, and conflict resolution and reconciliation. He noted that the national constitutional convention scheduled to begin in March or April is expected to launch the next phase of the constitutional review process.

Further, he warned that the militant group Al-Shabaab remains a potent threat, despite financial pressures, counter-terrorism operations and air strikes, highlighting the 14 October terror attack in Mogadishu. This was the most deadly attack by an improvised explosive devise ever perpetrated, with an estimated 512 people killed, nearly all of whom were civilians.

Concerning the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Keating noted that the Federal Government of Somalia has undertaken an operational readiness assessment of the Somali National Army and the Somali Police Force to provide a much clearer understanding of their capability. The assessment revealed multiple deficits and the enormous challenge ahead in translating the national security architecture into reality on the ground. He asserted that AMISOM’s continued presence will therefore be essential. The premature drawdown of AMISOM forces would be a gift to Al-Shabaab, he said, and would risk undermining the gains that have been made, at great human and financial cost, over the past decade.

The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and head of AMISOM, Francisco Caetano José Madeira, also briefed the Council via video teleconference from Addis Ababa. He said that 2018 would be crucial for AMISOM in Somalia, recalling that Security Council resolution 2372 had requested that the mission reduce its troop levels, increase its police contingent, and conduct offensive operations against Al-Shabaab.

Madeira noted that AMISOM was in regular contact with the government to discuss a conditions-based and responsible withdrawal, and said that AMISOM would work with the Somali National Army in carrying out robust operations against Al-Shabaab, although such operations would be subject to the availability of requisite force enablers and multipliers. He said that the AU and AMISOM shared the federal government’s assessment that the Somali National Army was not currently in a position to take over from AMISOM forces. The mission was carrying the burden of security and would continue to mentor the Somali military and police, as requested by the Council, until Somalia is ready to fully assume its security responsibilities. He emphasised the need for predictable and sustainable funding for AMISOM and the Somali security forces, stressing that the mission expected generous contributions following the appointment of two AMISOM financing envoys, whose roles would be crucial in the coming months.

The day after the briefing, Council members issued a press statement welcoming Somalia’s political commitment to security sector, economic and political reforms, praising the progress made to date, and emphasising that all parties should make 2018 a year of implementation. The members of the Council also reaffirmed the importance of accelerating implementation of the national security architecture and focusing on a gradual transfer of lead security responsibility from AMISOM to the Somali government. They also noted the importance of UN and AU efforts to explore options available in order to establish future funding arrangements for AMISOM.

The Council also issued a press statement on 25 February that condemned in the strongest terms the two terrorist attacks of 23 February in Mogadishu that killed and injured innocent Somalis.

On 19 February, the Somali government announced that it had appointed new police and intelligence chiefs nearly four months after their predecessors were fired in the aftermath of the 14 October terror attack. Former Deputy Health Minister Hussein Osman Hussein was named head of Somalia's intelligence service, and deputy head of police Bashir Abdi Mohamed was promoted to police chief.

Human Rights-Related Developments

The Human Rights Council will hold an enhanced interactive dialogue on Eritrea and receive an oral update on the situation in the country during its 37th session in March. 

Key Issues and Options

Ensuring that UNSOM is properly equipped to support the Somali government in the three priority areas—state-building, security strategy, and socio-economic reform—is the key issue. This includes UNSOM’s support for the government in facilitating key political processes—such as the constitutional review; preparations for one-person, one-vote elections; and establishing a functional federal state—as well as advising and assisting the government on security matters and promoting economic development. The most likely option for the Council will be to extend UNSOM’s mandate for an additional year, taking the opportunity to make modifications to the mandate to reflect the peacebuilding and state-building gains made in the last year.

Concerning AMISOM, a key issue is ensuring that the mission is equipped to adequately strengthen the Somali forces so they can progressively take the lead in providing security, as a premature handover of security responsibilities would risk undermining Somalia’s security and political gains. Closely related is the need to secure predictable and sustainable funding for AMISOM and Somali security institutions.

On sanctions, the key issue for Council members is assessing how the Somalia sanctions regime can more effectively keep weapons out of the hands of Al-Shabaab and other militants in Somalia, including by taking into account ways to thwart the group’s increasing use of improvised explosive devices and its ability to continue to profit from charcoal sales, despite the charcoal ban established by the Council.

A contentious issue in the Council has been how to approach the sanctions on Eritrea in light of the fact that for the fourth year in a row, last year’s report of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group found no conclusive evidence that Eritrea was providing support to Al-Shabaab. This finding is complicated by the fact that the Eritrean government, which has not allowed the monitoring group to visit the country since 2011, continues to block the group from visiting. Nevertheless, the Council could revisit attempts that began last year to review the sanctions measures on Eritrea and pursue an outcome in that regard, while continuing to seek the cooperation of the Eritrean government.

Council Dynamics

On Somalia generally, Council members are united in supporting state-building processes and in their support for UNSOM, as demonstrated by unified messages conveyed during the Council’s visit to Somalia in May 2016 and the uncontentious adoption of several recent Council outcomes on Somalia.

Concerning AMISOM, some Council members have expressed more caution about the drawdown of troops than others.

The Council is also largely united on issues pertaining to sanctions on Somalia. On Eritrea, however, members are divided between those who believe the Council should reconsider sanctions measures against Eritrea and those who stress that Eritrea’s other activities in the region also warrant sanctions. All Council members would like to see Eritrea increase its engagement with the UN. 

The UK is the penholder on Somalia, and Kazakhstan is the chair of the 751/1907 Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee for 2017.

UN DOCUMENTS ON SOMALIA AND ERITREA

Security Council Resolutions
14 November 2017 S/RES/2385 This was a resolution on Somalia and Eritrea sanctions with 11 affirmative votes and four abstentions (Bolivia, China, Egypt, Russia).
30 August 2017 S/RES/2372 This resolution reauthorised AMISOM until 31 May 2018.
14 June 2017 S/RES/2358 This resolution renewed the mandate of UNSOM until 31 March 2018.
Secretary-General's Reports
26 December 2017 S/2017/1109 This was the Secretary-General’s latest report on Somalia.
Security Council Meeting Records
24 January 2018 S/PV.8165 This was a briefing by Special Representative of the SG Michael Keating and Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission Francisco Madeira on the situation in Somalia and the latest Secretary-General’s report.
Security Council Press Statements
25 February 2018 SC/13223 Council members condemned two terrorist attacks of 23 February in Mogadishu.
Sanctions Committee Documents
2 November 2017 S/2017/924 This was the report on Somalia of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.

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