posted on Wed 27 Jan 2016 5:08 PM
Somalia: Briefing and Possible Press Statement

Tomorrow morning (28 January), the Security Council is scheduled to hold a meeting on Somalia, followed by consultations, to consider the Secretary-General’s 8 January quarterly report (S/2016/27). Briefings are expected via VTC by the new Special Representative for Somalia, Michael Keating, who succeeded Nicholas Kay in January, and the new Special Representative of the AU for Somalia and head of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Francisco Caetano José Madeira. At press time, the UK, as the penholder, had indicated that it might propose a press statement.

The situation in Somalia was on the agenda of the Council’s meeting with the AU on 23 January during its recent visiting mission to Africa, but there was only time for a very brief exchange of views as the main focus was on Burundi. The meeting tomorrow will therefore offer an opportunity for a more in-depth discussion, with the main focus expected to be on the continuing security challenges and AMISOM’s performance in this regard. Progress on the political front, in particular with regard to ongoing talks aimed at reaching agreement on an electoral model for elections to be held this year, is also likely to be covered.

Recent developments in Somalia have not been very encouraging. As noted in the Secretary-General’s report, the security situation remains volatile. Al-Shabaab continues to pose a serious threat, as demonstrated by the 15 January attack against AMISOM which according to the rebel group killed more than 100 Kenyan peacekeepers. Although Kenya has yet to confirm any casualty numbers, it seems generally understood that at least 65 of its soldiers died in the attack. Al-Shabaab also claimed responsibility for an attack against a restaurant in Mogadishu on 21 January which killed at least 14 civilians according to media reports. Council members condemned the attacks in two separate press statements (SC/12205 issued on 15 January and SC/12216 issued on 21 January).

In light of the seriousness of the attack against AMISOM, Council members are particularly interested in what the briefers will have to say about the security situation and their assessment of Al-Shabaab, including recent indications of ties with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). They are also likely to be interested in an update regarding ongoing efforts aimed at enhancing the mission’s capacity to counter the rebel group, both in terms of progress towards strengthening UN support and coordination through the UN Support Office for Somalia (UNSOS), as recently authorised by the Council in resolution 2245, and measures taken by the AU and the mission itself.

Among other things, Council members may be interested in any progress that has been made by the AU in implementing the request made in resolution 2231 adopted in July last year that the AU “undertakes a structured and targeted reconfiguration of AMISOM to enable a surge in its efficiency, in particular by strengthening command and control structures, enhancing cross-sector operations” and other measures. The AU recently submitted a revised concept of operations for AMISOM to the Council, which was also requested by the resolution, but there seems to be some concern that too little progress has been made in improving the mission’s efficiency. Members may therefore want to discuss in more detail what concrete measures have been taken and whether there are any plans for new offensive operations.

Also with regard to AMISOM, the issue of funding may come up in the discussions, highlighting a continuing area of tension between the AU and its international partners. The EU’s decision to cut the allowances of AMISOM’s uniformed personnel by 20 percent as of 1 January 2016 seems to have led to renewed focus on the need to ensure that the mission has the resources it needs. This is a concern that the AU has repeatedly raised in previous discussions with the Council and may be shared by some Council members, but it is not clear that the situation will improve any time soon.

Council members may also choose to bring attention to the number of civilian casualties linked to the operations of AMISOM and Somali security forces. In his report to the Council, the Secretary-General expressed serious concern about the number of such casualties and urged full investigation of the incidents. Human Rights Watch recently stated that all warring parties in Somalia, including government forces, allied militias, opposition armed groups and AMISOM, had committed violations of international humanitarian law resulting in numerous civilian casualties. These concerns are likely to be shared by many Council members.

With regard to the political situation, the immediate focus is now on the impasse in the talks aimed at reaching agreement on an electoral model. The National Consultative Forum on 16 December adopted the so-called Mogadishu Declaration, which among other things stated that the details of the electoral model and implementation plan for the elections should be launched at a ceremony in Kismayo on 10 January. However, no agreement was reached by that date, and instead it was announced that the discussions would continue at a later, yet to be determined date.

Subsequently, in a meeting on 18 January, the UN, IGAD, the EU, Italy, Sweden, the UK and the US met with the Somali president, prime minister and speaker of parliament, to express their expectation that Somali leaders would agree on an electoral model without further delay, in accordance with the Mogadishu Declaration. They also underlined that there should be no extension of the constitutionally mandated term limits of the legislature and the executive which expire in August and September 2016, respectively, and expressed their expectation that agreement should be reached “well in advance” of tomorrow’s Council meeting and the AU’s upcoming summit meeting on 30 and 31 January.

Based on past experience, there appears to be serious concern about the way forward and the ability of Somalia leaders to break the impasse, although talks have continued in Mogadishu this week. At the same time, however, there seemed at the time of writing still to be some hope that agreement on the electoral model would be reached at the last minute, before the Council meeting tomorrow. The focus at the meeting tomorrow will therefore depend on the status of the talks. At press time, it was expected that the UK would propose a press statement to either welcome progress in case of a last-minute breakthrough, or in the absence of an agreement, echo the message from international partners conveyed in the meeting on 18 January urging Somali leaders to agree on an electoral model without further delay. The press statement is also likely to cover the situation in Somalia more broadly, and address other key political and security concerns.

Looking ahead, on 22 -23 February there will be a ministerial level meeting of the High-Level Partnership Forum for Somalia in Istanbul, to which all Council members have been invited.