posted on WED 13 FEB 2013 3:33 PM
Somalia Briefing and Consultations on Future UN Presence

Tomorrow, Thursday 14 February, the Security Council is scheduled to receive a briefing on Somalia by Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tayé Brook Zerihoun, to be followed by informal consultations. Zerihoun is expected to present the Secretary-General’s latest report on Somalia (S/2013/69) which gave four options for the future UN presence in Somalia. The Somali Foreign Minister Fauzia Yusuf Haji Adan is also expected to speak. No outcome is anticipated at this stage. However, the Council is expected to start negotiations soon on a resolution to renew the authorisation of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) before it expires on 7 March and is likely then to also make a decision on the UN presence.

Future UN Presence

The reconfiguration of the UN presence is likely to be the main focus of the discussions tomorrow. Out of four possible options, the Secretary-General has recommended the establishment of a UN Assistance Mission that would replace the UN Political Office for Somalia. The new mission would deliver political and peacebuilding support with a presence across Somalia and would also integrate the functions currently performed by the UN Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA). Under this option, the UN country team would remain structurally separate although there would be mechanisms put in place to ensure strategic integration.

The other three options presented in the report are a joint AU-UN support operation (option A), a fully integrated UN peacebuilding mission (option B, which would include the UN country team) and a UN peacebuilding mission with a separate UNSOA (option D).

The discussions tomorrow may help bring more clarity as to Council members’ positions on the options presented. Dynamics are quite complex as some major stakeholders outside the Council do not agree with the Secretary-General’s recommendation. While the humanitarian community is strongly against structural integration of the UN country team (citing concerns that such integration may lead to perceptions that the humanitarian aid has political objectives) and supports his recommendation, the Somali government has made clear that it favours the creation of a fully integrated UN peacebuilding mission (option B). While there is clearly a willingness among Council members to listen to the concerns raised by the humanitarian community, many also believe that the position of the Somali government deserves very serious consideration.

A further complicating element is the fact that there are different views on whether UNSOA should be integrated into a new UN structure. In particular, it seems the US, while favouring the creation of an integrated peacebuilding mission, is keen on keeping UNSOA as a separate entity (option D).

Council members are also likely to be interested in an update from Zerihoun on recent developments on the political front and in particular on progress in the six priority areas established by the Somali president. (These are stabilisation through the rule of law and good governance; economic recovery; peacebuilding and reconciliation; public service delivery; improved international relations; and national unity.) They will also likely be looking for an update on progress with regard to unfinished tasks under the road map for ending the transition.

Another issue related to the government’s performance that may be raised by Council members is freedom of press. The recent sentencing of a journalist and the alleged rape victim he interviewed by a Somali court to one year in prison drew widespread criticism from the international community, including from many Council members. Another journalist was arrested on 5 February after criticising the sentencing. A related concern that may be raised by some Council members is the continuation of violent attacks against journalists. On 18 January, another journalist was killed in Mogadishu. (Eighteen journalists were killed in Somalia in 2012.) Council members may be looking for an update on the task force that the Somali government announced last November would be established to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for killing Somali journalists.

Sanctions

Issues related to sanctions may also come up in tomorrow’s discussions. In his report, the Secretary-General supported the Somali government’s call for a lifting of the arms embargo to facilitate the provision of arms to the Somali National Security Forces. The US has also publicly supported a partial lifting of the embargo, whereas other Council members, including European and Latin American members, seem hesitant about any lifting of the arms embargo at this stage. It seems the Monitoring Group assisting the 751/1907 Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee has also advised against such a move. There may therefore be some interest in engaging Zerihoun in a dialogue on this issue. Council members will also have an opportunity for a more in-depth discussion on sanctions on Friday, when the Monitoring Group is scheduled to present its mid-term briefing to the Sanctions Committee.

AU Strategic Review

Another area where Council members may be looking for more clarity is on the process surrounding the AU’s strategic review of AMISOM as there seems to be some frustrations that the AU still has not submitted its report on this to the Security Council. It seems the AU Peace and Security Council is not scheduled to meet until 27 February to discuss the outcome of the review and only after that will the AU report be forwarded to the Council. This will not leave much time for Council members, who are likely to have already started negotiations on a draft resolution, to take into account any requests from the AU relating to AMISOM before the current Council authorisation of the mission expires on 7 March.

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