Council will continue the higher profile attention to Somalia initiated in March under the Chinese presidency. Council members will discuss Somalia in Nairobi during the upcoming Council mission to Africa and there will also be a debate in New York on the Secretary-General’s report on Somalia (due on 1 May). The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, is expected to brief the Council. It is unclear whether there will be any new decisions.
Key Recent Developments
On 11 April the Council adopted resolution 1976 on Somali piracy. The resolution, initiated by Russia, followed up the January report of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Legal Issues Related to Piracy off the coast of Somalia, Jack Lang. The Council called for strengthening of efforts on the ground on rule of law, governance and economic development, as well as continued focus on enhancing the legal framework for prosecution of pirates. It also: requested the Secretary-General to report within six months on the protection of Somali natural resources and waters and on allegations of illegal fishing and illegal dumping of toxic substance off the coast of Somalia;
expressed the Council’s intention “to keep under review” the possibility of applying targeted sanctions against those involved in piracy activities; and
requested a report from the Secretary-General within two months on the modalities of establishing specialised courts to try suspected pirates as recommended by the Special Adviser and expressed its intention to “urgently consider” the establishment of such courts.
On 14 April, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported that there had been a steep rise in piracy off the coast of Somalia in the first three months of this year. Ninety-seven attacks (resulting in 15 hijackings) had been recorded, compared with 35 in the same period last year. According to IMB there had also been a dramatic increase in the violence and sophistication of techniques used by Somali pirates.
In April, Mahiga continued his consultations on post-transitional arrangements for Somalia. There seemed to be a growing rift between the international community and the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG). In early April, the TFG, ignoring advice from the UN and the Council, decided to extend its mandate for a year beyond the end of the transitional period in August. Moreover, in a 4 April letter to the Secretary-General, Somali Prime Minister Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed demanded that all UN agencies working in Somalia should move to Mogadishu within ninety days.
The Somali president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and the prime minister boycotted a high-level consultative meeting convened by Mahiga in Nairobi on 12 and 13 April. It was attended, however, by the speaker of the Somali parliament, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, as well as by the presidents of the Somali regional states of Puntland (which declared itself an autonomous state in 1998) and Galmudug and representatives from Ahlu Suna Wal Jamma, the pro-government Islamist movement, which controls parts of central Somalia. The meeting was convened to start a process of consultations “aimed at consolidating peace, working towards a smooth end to the transition and preparing for a political dispensation following that.”
In a chairman’s statement at the end of the meeting, Mahiga concluded that there had been agreement among the Somali stakeholders present, on the need to end the transitional period in accordance with the provisions of the Transitional Federal Charter of Somalia, which calls for elections of the president and speaker before the end of the transition. It had been proposed, however, to extend the Transitional Federal Parliament for a period of two years in order to complete certain critical tasks, including preparations for elections. Mahiga also said there had been agreement on the need to reform the parliament, intensify outreach and reconciliation efforts, accelerate progress on a new constitution, implement previous agreements between the TFG, regional administrations and Ahlu Sunna Wa’al Jamaa and increase humanitarian and development assistance.
On 18 April, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe briefed Council members on the consultative meeting. (This was part of the monthly briefing on emerging or significant issues that has recently become Council practice.) Pascoe said the TFG had agreed to participate in a follow-up meeting to be convened in Mogadishu.
Meanwhile, the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) expanded its control of Mogadishu to more than half the capital’s territory following the offensive that began at the end of February. This has come at a high cost, however, with more than 50 peacekeepers killed. There were also territorial gains in favour of the TFG elsewhere in Somalia.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 23 March, Zahra Mohamed Ali Samantar, the Minister of State at the Office of the Prime Minister of Somalia, addressed the Human Rights Council under its agenda item on technical assistance and capacity building. She said that her government attached great importance to the restoration of peace, observance of human rights and international humanitarian law in times of war, notwithstanding the challenges and difficulties that Somalia was facing. Following a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) workshop in Djibouti earlier this year, Somalia had decided to ratify the Conventions on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and on the Rights of the Child. Ali Samantar said that her government was committed to submitting its national human rights report in readiness for the UPR of Somalia scheduled for 5 May 2011.
A key issue for the Council is how best to support Mahiga in bringing about agreement on post-transitional arrangements. A related issue is whether the Council should be more specific about its expectations for these arrangements, in particular as regards the legitimacy and future of the TFG and the need to hold elections for the positions of president and speaker of the parliament by August this year.
A second key issue is the TFG’s apparent unwillingness to engage “in a more constructive, open and transparent manner that promotes broader political dialogue and participation in line with the Djibouti Agreement,” as the Council called for in its March presidential statement. (The Council requested the Secretary-General to assess respect for these principles in his regular reports.)
Another issue is the extent of progress in other areas outlined as priorities in the Council’s previous decisions, including in resolution 1964 , such as drafting of a new constitution, adoption of a national security and stabilisation plan, development of Somali security institutions, delivery of basic services to the population, delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection of civilians. A related question is whether it is now time for UN agencies to move from Nairobi to Mogadishu.
Options for the Council include:
- Listening to Mahiga’s briefing, but taking no further action at least until after the visit to Nairobi;
- Issuing a statement in advance of the visit signalling concern about the TFG’s failure to engage constructively with the international community, clarifying its expectations on post-transitional arrangements and reiterating some of its previous key messages;
- Conveying these concerns in meetings with Somali officials during the upcoming trip to Africa; and
- Moving in the Sanctions Committee to establish targeted sanctions against those involved in piracy off the coast of Somalia. (In April 2010, the UK objected to the listing of two pirate leaders proposed by the US to the Committee by putting a hold on their names. This has yet to be lifted.)
In the consultations following Pascoe’s briefing on 18 February, Council members seemed united in their unhappiness about the TFG’s refusal to participate in the meeting in Nairobi. Some pointed out that this was a direct defiance of one of the key messages of the Council’s March presidential statement. There was also a high level of frustration with the overall performance of Somali leaders, their continued infighting and failure to deliver in key areas in spite of strong support from the international community. There appeared to be a sense that the present situation cannot go on.
Most members seem to feel that Council action in May should reinforce developments in the consultations conducted by Mahiga. There are hopes for some outcome from the meeting to be convened in Mogadishu. At press time, a date had not yet been fixed for the meeting, but June seemed most likely.
The UK is the lead country on Somalia.