In its March 19, 2011 ‘A Week in the Horn report’ report, Ministry of Foreign Affairs raised issues about the arrival of Burundi troops in Somalia, the visit of Somali Deputy Prime Minister and Defence minister to Ethiopia, the statement of UNSC President on Somalia, the agreement of SPLM and to resume negotiations and the press conference of the Prime Minister
Somalia: More Burundi troops arrive: further problems for Al-Shabaab
On the ground in Mogadishu, Burundi has increased its troop contribution to AMISOM by a further 1,000 soldiers. This brings the numbers of Burundi troops in Somalia to nearly 4,500. This is part of the planned increase to raise the number of AMISOM to 12,000 as approved by IGAD, the African Union and the United Nations. This additional Burundi deployment will allow Burundi forces to carry out further pincer movements similar to the recent successful operations which evicted Al-Shabaab fighters from the former Defence Ministry and other strategic areas.
Dusa Mareb and Eel-bur districts of Galgadud Region in central Somalia. Al-Shabaab made a number of unsuccessful attempts to capture and hold Dusa Mareb and more recently Ahlu Sunna has been engaging Al-Shabaab at El-lahey and God-dhurwa villages. Al-Shabaab heavily fortified these two villages, building bunkers and extensive trenches to defend the key town of Eel-bur from Ahlu Sunna attacks. Fighting started at God-dhurwa and then intensified at El-lahey the next day. Al-Shabaab suffered heavy losses with more than a hundred fighters killed and nearly two hundred injured. Ahlu Sunna also captured a number of weapons including two BKM and one B10.
In Mogadishu itself, heavy fighting subsided after Al-Shabaab’s losses of fighters and territory in the recent TFG/AMISOM advances. Numbers of Al-Shabaab fighters have been surrendering to government forces, and the UN has sent a team to look into how to provide sustained and coordinated support to help those who have surrendered. The leader of one group of seven broadcast over national radio in Mogadishu to urge other youths not to join Al-Shabaab which he called a “social menace…They only target underage children, who are unaware of what is happening and are unable to account for their actions”.
There was another blow to Al-Shabaab recently when a huge explosion rocked Al-Shabaab’s training centre at Lanta-bure, thirty kilometers south-west of Mogadishu, close to Afgoye. Lanta-bure is the former Somali Police training centre. A lorry, fully loaded with explosives and shells, including shrapnel, and ready to be transported to Mogadishu city, accidentally exploded. It rocked the entire centre, killing everybody around and largely destroying the camp. Among those killed was Abu Yusuf “Abu Mujahid”, a Syrian who was Al Qaeda’s top East African explosives expert, together with a number of other senior Al-Shabaab figures and fighters. A similar explosion recently killed dozens of Al Shabaab fighters in Beletweyn.
Somalia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Abduhakim Mohamed Haji Faqi, visited Addis Ababa this week. During his visit he had discussions with Prime Minister Meles, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, and State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Berhane Gebre Christos; he also met with senior defence officials. The Deputy Prime Minister, who underlined the strong relations existing between the Ethiopian and Somali peoples and the need to do more to enhance the relationship, thanked Ethiopia for its continuous support in training and capacity building for both the TFIs and Somali security institutions. He gave an account of recent progress on the ground against Al-Shabaab in Gedo and Bakool regions as well as Mogadishu, achieved in collaboration with AMISOM and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a. He underlined the TFG’s efforts to bring peace and stability in Somalia and detailed the main activities of the new cabinet over the last hundred days. He noted that the TFG would now embark on creating administrations in the areas of Gedo, Galgudud and Bakool regions now free of Al-Shabaab following its recent defeats. Ethiopian officials made it clear they appreciated the progress made on the ground against Al-Shabaab but underlined that this needed to be replicated on the political front. The TFG had to make the extra effort to accomplish the remaining tasks of the transition period before it ended in August. They reassured the visiting Minister that Ethiopia would be prepared to provide capacity building support to the TFG to sustain the positive progress achieved on the ground.
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ambassador Mahiga also met Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn this week. They discussed current developments in Somalia and the way forward for the post-transition period. Ambassador Mahiga briefed Ato Hailemariam on his recent discussions with a wide range of Somali interlocutors. He detailed the results of yesterday’s meeting of the troop contributing countries in Addis Ababa. This had considered how to sustain the progress made in recent military operations against Al-Shabaab, and discussed how to improve TFG security management procedures as well as medical treatment, compensation and support for the security forces. The meeting appreciated the impact of the effective operations being carried out by Ahlu Sunna in the west and south, while the TFG is concentrating on action in Mogadishu. It underlined the need to support these efforts within the context of the agreement signed between Ahlu Sunna and the TFG in March last year. Concern was expressed about the possibility of foreign fighters of Al-Shabaab fleeing to join pirate forces, and the need for the multinational naval forces to cooperate in detaining extremists to prevent any efforts to join in the piracy activity now hampering the movement of ships in the Indian Ocean. Ambassador Mahiga also discussed the remaining political tasks that should be accomplished before the end of the transitional period and the need to reform the Transitional Federal Parliament. There is a plan for Ambassador Mahiga to convene a meeting to bring together the major actors in Somalia and the guarantors of the Djibouti peace process to exchange views and ideas on the way forward.
Ato Hailemariam underlined the need for the international community to speak with one voice and to allow the TFIs to move forward with their plans. Following their recent military successes, the TFG, Ahlu Sunna and AMISOM should be strengthened further, as it is only the total defeat of Al-Shabaab which will ensure a sustainable peace and stability. The recent advances will open corridors for humanitarian support, something IGAD had called for during its January Summit. There was also a need to move quickly to establish and strengthen local administrations in the areas liberated from Al-Shabaab, to provide services and allow direct contact between the TFIs and local populations. This would also create an environment for popular consultations on the draft constitution that is to provide the basis for Somalia’s permanent government after the transition. Ato Hailemariam emphasized the need for the international community to speak with one voice regarding Somalia’s future.
Last week, the current President of the UN Security Council, Mr. Li Baodong (China) issued a statement on Somalia after a day-long open debate on the subject of a “Comprehensive strategy for the realization of peace and security in Somalia”. The statement urged the Transitional Federal Institutions to broaden and consolidate the reconciliation process, intensify efforts to complete outstanding transition tasks, and prioritize the timely completion of the constitution and the delivery of basic services to the population. It called on the TFIs to reach agreement on post-transitional arrangements in a more constructive, open and transparent manner to promote broader political dialogue and participation. It regretted the Parliament’s decision to extend its mandate without carrying out necessary reforms and called on the TFIs to refrain from any further unilateral actions. It emphasized the importance of strengthening Somali security forces and the importance of providing predictable, reliable and timely resources for AMISOM.
It urged member states, as well as regional and international organizations, to contribute generously to the UN Trust Fund for AMISOM. It encouraged the full deployment of 4000 additional AMISOM troops as authorized by Security Council Resolution 1964 (2010) as soon as possible. The Council expressed serious concern over the worsening humanitarian situation, the impact of drought and the decline of humanitarian funding. It strongly condemned the targeting and obstruction of humanitarian aid by Al-Shabaab and demanded all parties should ensure full access for the delivery of such assistance. It also condemned the increased violence by pirates in the strongest terms, recognizing that instability in Somalia had contributed to this and stressing the need for a comprehensive response to tackle it. The Council called on all member states, particularly those in the region, to refrain from any action in contravention of the Somalia and Eritrea arms embargo and to take all necessary steps to hold violators accountable. It affirmed the importance of enhancing the monitoring of arms embargoes through persistent and vigilant investigation. The UN Monitoring Committee is due to report again in July. In conclusion the President’s statement commended the efforts of the African Union (AU), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and other regional organizations to promote peace and stability in Somalia. It reiterated the Council’s full support to AMISOM and its troop contributing countries, Burundi and Uganda.
Opening the debate, Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon emphasized that AMISOM would be more effective if it had more resources, including helicopters and support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. He said there were critical gaps in the UN’s support package and appealed to member states to increase their contributions to enable the Mission to reach its full strength. It was also necessary for the TFIs to rise to the political and governance challenges. Any extension of the transition period must be earned with the focus on fulfilling outstanding tasks. The process should be open and inclusive. Ambassador Mahiga, his representative, had been working with clan and religious leaders, he said, to reach a consensus of these issues as outlined in the Djibouti Agreement. The Secretary-General noted that the recent advances in Mogadishu and in southern Somalia would allow the UN to expand its presence in Somalia, and by reinforcing military gains, providing humanitarian relief and achieving political progress “we can set Somalia on course for greater stability and peace.” However, he added, this year’s humanitarian appeal for Somalia called for US $529 million but as of last month only a quarter of that had been received.
The Council also heard from Somalia’s Prime Minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, the AU’s Special Representative, Boubacar Diarra, Uganda’s representative and the UK’s Minister for Africa. Somalia’s Prime Minister listed his government’s priorities: improving security, enhancing reconciliation, completing the transitional tasks, addressing the humanitarian crises, and promoting good governance. The TFG, he said, was the first line of defense against two evils – the scourge of piracy and the plague of terrorism - and it was committed to defeating two common enemies: Al-Shabaab and the pirates. Mr. Diarra said, despite some positive results, the situation remained challenging. He said the AU strategy hinged on the need for AMISOM to support the TFIs, paving the way for a new dispensation in August. He requested the Council to continue to support the TFIs and enhance AMISOM’s support package. It must, he said, authorize naval operations off the coast of Somalia to provide more direct support. It was also important to ensure effective implementation of sanctions, and to approach the issue of piracy holistically. The UK’s Minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, stressed the need for an inclusive political process. It was troubling that political infighting appeared to have a higher priority than reconciliation in the TFIs. There should be no extension of the transition period without reforms.
Among the over thirty other speakers were representatives of France, the United States and the Russian Federation as well as Ethiopia and Eritrea. Ambassador Tekeda Alemu, the Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the UN, speaking on behalf of IGAD said the situation in Somalia remained critical. The reasons were obvious. Although the end of the transition period was fast approaching, the TFG has not discharged all its responsibilities. Nevertheless, allowing the transition period to lapse and the Djibouti Peace Process to collapse was not an option. The last few days demonstrated that that the TFG could make progress in security. This momentum needed to be maintained and expanded; indeed, it was critical to raise the credibility of the TFG and convey the message that the extremists are far from being “the wave of the future”. There were now opportunities to be seized. The question was: were all stakeholders ready? It was important to ensure the full implementation of the March 15th, 2010, agreement between the TFG and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a and strengthen cooperation with all those committed to peace and the Djibouti Peace Process. The Djibouti Agreement remained the basis for consolidating the process of national reconciliation. At the same time much more must be expected from others. Security Council resolution 1964 (2010) only partially addressed the AU requests regarding AMISOM’s authorized strength, an enhanced support package for AMISOM from UN assessed contributions, and the impositions of a naval blockade and a no-fly zone as well as effective implementation of sanctions against the “spoilers”. All this was made imperative by the worsening humanitarian situation in the country. Ambassador Tekeda noted that IGAD countries continued to do their share and he stressed IGAD was deeply grateful to Uganda and Burundi for their sacrifices. Enhanced cooperation between AMISOM, UNPOS and IGAD was demonstrated by the MOU signed in April last year on consultation and coordination. This had become the basis for a joint regional strategy agreed last month. This might, indeed, serve as a template for other regions. In conclusion he appealed for the Council to give the Somalia situation far greater attention in the future.
Virtually all speakers called for greater support for AMISOM, for the Djibouti Peace Process and for increased moves against piracy, with the exception of Ambassador Araya Desta, the Eritrean Representative, who referred to “parties wishing to cling to policies and arrangement that had clearly failed” and to concerted efforts being made to maintain the status quo, even while the military involvement of external actors continued unabated. He claimed Eritrea was ready to make “its own modest constructive contribution” to an inclusive Somali political process but his statement was sharply at odds with the continuing activity of Eritrea in trying to undermine the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, which Eritrea alone continues to call illegitimate. Eritrea, in fact, made it clear it continued to assume its own right to support extremist and terrorist groups committed to trying to overthrow the TFG, the internationally recognized government of Somalia, and to carry on with its own destabilizing role in Somalia and throughout the region.