By J Nastranis
NEW YORK (IDN) – The UN Security Council is concerned about the situation in the Horn of Africa and in light of the threat posed by Al-Shabaab terrorist group, drought and the on-going humanitarian crisis, “the region demands a high proportion of UN peacekeeping resource.”
Reporting on the activities of the Security Council Committee and on the assessment of recent developments based on the latest reports of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, the Chair of the Committee – pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea – urged the UN’s influential body to “invest more in preventing and resolving conflicts”.
“Achieving sustainable global peace is impossible without achieving full peace and security in Africa and the Horn of Africa, in particular,” Kazakhstan’s Ambassador Kairat Umarov, Permanent Representative to the UN and the Committee Chair told the Security Council on April 13.
In this vein, he added, during the reporting period, the Chair has been engaging with members of the Committee, as well as the concerned Member States on a possible visit of the Chair to the Horn of Africa, comprising Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia.
According to the latest update of the Monitoring Group to the Committee, Al-Shabaab remains the most significant threat to peace and security in Somalia. Despite the successful eviction of the ISIL/Da’esh faction from the port town of Qandala by the Puntland security forces in December 2016, the Group reported that this terrorist organisation continues to maintain a presence in the surrounding, more remote sections of the town’s mountainside.
During the briefing on December 16, 2016, representatives of IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, also confirmed the assessment of the Monitoring Group that Al-Shabaab is a very critical threat to the stability of the region. They also stated that no ideological rapprochement between ISIL/Da’esh and Al-Shabaab has been observed, Umarov said.
With regards to the arms embargo, the Monitoring Group reported that the Interim Jubba Administration and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) contingents discovered approximately 25,000 blank-firing pistols on board of the vessel SJ African docked in the port of Kismayo.
With full coordination between the Interim Jubba Administration, AMISOM, and the Monitoring Group arms experts, the Group continues its investigation to establish the origin of the cargo and its intended destination.
In light of the on-going drought, the Monitoring Group reported that uncontrolled humanitarian assistance can result in additional threats to the peace, security and stability of Somalia.
“The Federal Government of Somalia pledged to ensure the removal of all impediments to the delivery of assistance. The willingness of the federal and regional leaders to uphold these commitments, as well as of the international communities to implement the ‘Operational Plan for Pre-Famine Scale up of Humanitarian Assistance (Jan-Jun 2017)’ will be vital for saving lives and preserving stability and security in Somalia,” the Security Council Committee Chair Umarov said.
The Group also remained concerned about the threat to peace and security posed by the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in Somalia, he added.
With respect to the charcoal ban, it remained unclear to what extent Al-Shabaab was involved in the illicit export of charcoal from Somalia. However, the Monitoring Group noted a possible tactical shift away from Al-Shabaab’s self-declared ban to trade in charcoal, while taking note of significant activity at the charcoal stockpiles in Kismayo and Buur Gaabo, the Security Council Committee Chair stated.
According to an unofficial record, in the ensuing debate, speakers highlighted a range of concerns, from the humanitarian crisis and armed terrorist groups to reported pirate attacks. Many agreed that assistance was needed to build on recent gains, including Somalia’s successful elections.
Some speakers emphasised the priority of fighting terrorist groups, especially Al-Shabaab and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), with France urging the Somali authorities to swiftly develop the security architecture necessary for the police and armed forces to take over from the AMISOM.
Several speakers called for modifying existing sanctions. They included Russia’s Petr V. Iliichev, Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN. He raised a number of concerns, including increasing numbers of pirate attacks and the safety of the Somali people in the face of Al-Shabaab violence and the threat of famine.
Successful elections in Somalia had triggered progress in many sectors, he said. To build on that, he underlined the importance of strengthening the arms and charcoal embargo and extending assistance to AMISOM. He approved of loosening the embargo to allow national armed forces to receive needed materials, stressing that a sanctions regime was not a dogma, but rather must be periodically revised to reflect changing situations.
Others credited sanctions with having helped to prevent terrorist groups from arming themselves. Referring to Somalia and Al-Shabaab, Michele Jean Sison, the U.S. Deputy Representative to the UN, said robust efforts must continue to avoid backsliding on recent gains. She expressed support for sanctions as part of a comprehensive UN strategy to deter violence and corruption.
On the arms embargo, she urged Somalia and the Member States to comply with existing measures and advise promptly when using exemptions. She inquired about plans by one Member State to build a naval base in the region, adding that the United States would welcome any Monitoring Group reporting on an uptick in piracy and the nexus between unregulated fishing and piracy.
Turning to Eritrea, she emphasised the importance of a Monitoring Group visit, noting that without that Government’s engagement, the Council could not make an informed decision on sanctions.
Some Council members voiced support for the proposed visit. Ethiopia’s Ambassador Tekeda Alemu said although Al-Shabaab’s capacities had been weakened, it remained a potent force capable of launching attacks. Close attention must be paid to developments. The Monitoring Group’s work on sanctions was critical, he said, emphasising Ethiopia’s commitment to cooperate on that matter.
Forging the necessary horizontal coordination with the Monitoring Group and other mechanisms was important. Somalia had cooperated with the Group and must meet its obligations in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions, including on investigations involving missing soldiers. Any visit by the Council should remain free of preconceived assumptions, as it would allow the Committee to observe first-hand the boundary demarcation and other pressing concerns.
Emphasising that Al-Shabaab remained “a vicious threat,” Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, Britain’s Permanent Representative to the UN, said armed groups could not be defeated by military means alone. The political process would lay a foundation for peace and security. The sanctions regime had supported the Government’s fight against Al-Shabaab, alongside AMISOM troops.
Turning to Eritrea, he urged its Government to comply with its international obligations, including Council resolutions. Its refusal to cooperate with the Monitoring Group meant that there was no way to verify whether it was supporting Al-Shabaab and other armed groups. He encouraged Eritrea to take the opportunity for engagement being offered by the Council.
Eritrea’s Amanuel Giorgio said the Council’s briefing was taking place exactly 15 years from the date the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission had given its final, binding ruling. Yet Ethiopia continued to occupy sovereign Eritrean territory, including the town of Badme, in violation of its treaty obligations and international law, dashing hopes for peace and security.
The Council continued to avoid the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict, he noted. It could not continue its 15 years of inaction in the face of destabilising acts of occupation and aggression in the region. “This is not only morally and legally unacceptable but is it increasingly evident that the simmering tension is untenable and fraught with perilous escalation,” he said, calling on the Council to ensure Ethiopia’s immediate, unconditional withdrawal from sovereign Eritrean territories.
“Clearly, the time has come, in fact, it is long overdue, to lift the sanctions on Eritrea,” he said. They were unjustified and their continuation could only be viewed as a desire to spread crises in an already conflict-ridden region. For four years the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group had found no evidence of any Eritrean wrongdoing in Somalia.
On Djibouti, Eritrea was committed to Qatar-sponsored mediation efforts to release all Djibouti prisoners of war, he said, adding: “Eritrea has confirmed that there were no more Djiboutian prisoners in its hands.” The Monitoring Group had visited Eritrea twice and ascertained the absence of Eritrea’s support for Al-Shabaab.
As such, “Eritrea does not see any real value in a visit by the Monitoring Group to the country,” he said, stressing that its real concern was the public stance of certain countries against the lifting of sanctions even if the Group was to visit Eritrea.
Agreeing that Al-Shabaab continued to pose a serious threat to Somalia’s peace and security, Djibouti’s Ambassador Mohamed Siad Doualeh, Permanent Representative to the UN, expressed support for the call by the Head of AMISOM for a troop surge in order to tackle that group. Likewise, he echoed the Secretary-General’s call to provide enhanced logistical support for under-equipped African Union forces in Somalia, in particular force enablers and multipliers, including helicopters.
Saying he was “deeply saddened” that Eritrea had chosen to obstruct the Monitoring Group, denying them all access to information needed to determine whether Eritrea was in compliance with the Council’s resolutions, he stressed that the country had formulated a “victimhood narrative” and cynically sought to be rewarded for its continued defiance of Council resolutions.
Warning that Eritrea continued to provide support to Al-Shabaab, he went on to say the country should be urged to clarify the situation of the 13 remaining Djibouti prisoners of war still unaccounted for and must comply with the provisions of the 2010 Qatar Mediation Agreement on the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea.
The latter continued to harbour, train, equip and provide logistical support to armed groups seeking to overthrow and destabilise the Government of Djibouti, in violation of Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations, he added. [IDN-InDepthNews – 22 April 2017]
Photo: Families displaced by drought in Baidoa, Somalia, gather around Secretary-General António Guterres (white cap), who was in the region urging action to help them. Photo: UNSOM
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