Expected Council Action:In November, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution on Somalia and Eritrea sanctions that will address the partial lifting of the arms embargo, authorisation for maritime interdiction of illicit arms imports and charcoal exports, and the humanitarian exemption, which all expire on 15 November. The 120-day briefing by the chair of the 751/1901 Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee, Kairat Umarov (Kazakhstan), is expected. The mandate review of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) is also due in November. Finally, the Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution renewing counter-piracy measures.
Key Recent Developments
Somalia endured the worst terror attack in its history on 14 October when twin bomb explosions in Mogadishu left over 350 people dead and wounded more than 200 others. According to police, a truck bomb exploded outside a hotel at the busy K5 intersection, which is lined with government offices, restaurants and kiosks, levelling several buildings and setting dozens of vehicles on fire. Two hours later, another truck bomb struck the capital’s Medina district. Some investigators believe that the trucks did not reach their intended target—the heavily defended compound where the UN, embassies and AU forces are based. There was no immediate claim of responsibility; however, it is widely believed that Al-Shabaab is the only militant group in Somalia with the resources to execute an attack of this scale.
The following day, the Security Council issued a press statement condemning the terrorist attack in the strongest possible terms and commending the swift response of Somalia’s security forces and first responders.
In October the Council received the final reports of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG), which were discussed in a meeting of the Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee on 13 October. The report on Somalia noted a troubling trend toward the increased use of improvised explosive devices and other homemade explosives by Al-Shabaab, and it addresses the group’s financing through agricultural activities. The report also notes that the illicit sale of charcoal by Al-Shabaab has continued in the last year at a magnitude similar to the previous year. It is estimated that the group made $10 million last year through charcoal sales, mostly to Gulf Arab countries, which, according to the report, have offered varying degrees of cooperation with the SEMG. The report also addresses the rise of piracy incidents off the coast of Somalia and the activities of ISIL in Puntland. Concerning weapons and ammunition management, the report highlights concerns that compliance with reporting on arms shipments to regional administrations needs to improve, and that the regulations need to be clarified with regional administrations.
On Eritrea, the report states that for the fourth year in a row, the SEMG has found no evidence of support by Eritrea to Al-Shabaab. It reports, however, that the Eritrean government, which has not allowed the group to visit the country since 2012, continues to block the group from visiting. Furthermore, the Chair of the Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee had planned a visit to the region in July and the Eritrean government initially agreed to receive him in Asmara; however, once the itinerary was set, the Eritrean government told the Chair that the proposed dates were not workable. The SEMG made one recommendation on Eritrea—that, in light of the lack of evidence of support to Al-Shabaab, the Somalia and Eritrea sanctions regimes be disassociated. This recommendation was also made in last year’s final report but was not taken up by the Council.
On 12 October, the Secretary-General transmitted his report on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia. The report found that a slight increase in piracy activities between March and June 2017 pointed to the root causes not being fully addressed. During March and April 2017, six successful pirate attacks occurred involving the hijacking for ransom of cargo ships and dhows. In April, Chinese and Indian naval forces thwarted an attack on a cargo ship; and later the same month, Chinese naval forces and the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) prevented an attack on an oil tanker. Twenty-two unsuccessful attacks or suspicious maritime activities were recorded from March to September; of the 29 attempted or successful attacks during the reporting period, only two were against fishing vessels. The report notes that the hijackings in 2017 began four months after NATO terminated its counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia.
The Secretary-General’s assessment is that the recent attacks demonstrate that the underlying conditions fuelling piracy have not changed. Several factors add to the risk of a resurgence in piracy activities, including coastal communities’ perceptions of weak protection of coastal and marine resources by federal, international and local authorities, especially with regard to illegal fishing by foreign vessels; the ease of recruitment of potential pirates; the financing of attacks as a result of strong criminal networks operating onshore; the lack of alternative income-generating opportunities for affected coastal communities; and internationally, the weakness of the institutional capacities and legal frameworks that identify, capture, prosecute and convict suspected pirates and their accomplices.
Additionally, the report highlights external factors contributing to the rise in piracy: commercial ships are not adhering to best management practices, are deviating from the internationally-recommended transit corridor, and are taking increased risks and reducing their usage of private security personnel. Also contributing are weak information-sharing on the part of the international community, regional instability, and the fact that pirates are possibly viewing the current environment as permissive owing to the recent reduction in the international naval presence.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 27 September, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Bahame Nyanduga, and considered his report (A/HRC/36/62). The report noted that, while there are improvements in the human rights situation in terms of governance and the peacebuilding process, attacks by Al-Shabaab continued to cause civilian casualties. On 29 September, the HRC adopted a resolution without a vote that renewed the mandate of the Independent Expert for one year and requested a report at the HRC’s 39th session and the General Assembly’s 73rd session (A/HRC/RES/36/27).
Key Issues and Options
The key issue for Council members in November will be whether or not to alter the Somalia sanction regime in order to keep weapons out of the hands of Al-Shabaab and other militants in Somalia more effectively, 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 set out by the Council.
Another issue is whether or not the Council ought to disassociate the Somalia and Eritrea regimes, as recommended by the SEMG. This could be done by creating two separate sanctions committees with their own monitoring groups, keeping a single monitoring group with two separate sanctions committees, or maintaining a single sanctions committee with two separate monitoring groups.
The Council is largely united on issues pertaining to Somalia in general and on Somalia sanctions in particular. On Eritrea, however, members are divided between those who believe the Council should reconsider sanctions measures against Eritrea in light of the absence of any findings by the SEMG of evidence of support to Al-Shabaab 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. At last year’s adoption of a resolution on sanctions, there was no appetite among Council members to consider disassociating the Somalia and Eritrea regimes, and it is unclear whether members may choose to pursue that option at this time.
The UK is the penholder on Somalia and Somalia and Eritrea sanctions. Kazakhstan Chairs the 751/1907 Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee.