London Somalia Conference: ‘A space for peace and stability’

The London Somalia Conference was held on 23 February 2012 showcasing what might be considered to be an ambitious agenda, given the short program dedicated to discussions on the wide-ranging issues plaguing Somalia. The conference was opened by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and addressed by nine keynote speakers that included United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon. Three separate sessions were subsequently held to deal with Somalia’s political process, security, and stability and recovery. The brevity of proceedings does not detract from the significance of the event and the renewed emphasis now garnered by the international community to support Somalia out of transition and into a more permanently stable State. This post follows on from the Parliamentary Library Background Note, ‘A ray of hope’: London Somalia Conference, 23 February 2012.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2036 (2012)

Just prior to the London conference, the UN Security Council voted to expand the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), in line with the African Union’s Peace and Security Council’s recommended Strategic Concept (5 January 2012). UN Security Council Resolution 2036 (2012) increased the authorised strength of uniformed personnel, military and police, from 12 000 to 17 731. This number will include enhanced logistical support, which should allow AMISOM forces to extend their reach to sectors beyond the capital Mogadishu. AMISOM forces still retain authorisation under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to ‘take all necessary measures’ to support the UN mandate.

Resolution 2036 also warned that it would be ‘untenable’ for any further extension of existing transitional governance arrangements to go beyond the scheduled 20 August 2012 deadline (see ‘A ray of hope’: London Somalia Conference, 23 February 2012 for a discussion on transitional governance arrangements and the Roadmap towards a permanent governance framework in Somalia).

Resolution 2036 authorises AMISOM until 31 October 2012 and maintains it as an African mission with forces contributed by African Union (AU) members. At present, AMISOM forces are bolstered by uniformed personnel from Burundi, Uganda and most recently Djibouti. Resolution 2036 also ‘rehatted’ Kenyan forces—originally deployed to Somalia, outside of AMISOM, to fight Al-Shabaab elements—to conduct military operations under the auspices of AMISOM. The Resolution calls on other AU members to contribute forces to AMISOM but it may take some time for troop levels to reach 17 731. The previous authorised strength of 12 000 was adopted on 22 December 2010 (UN Security Council Resolution 1964) but by September 2011 AMISOM still had not reached its full strength, with only 9595 uniformed personnel in country.

Outcomes from the London Somalia Conference

The London Somalia Conference drew representatives from around 40 countries and 12 organisations. Australia was represented by the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Dennis Richardson.

The conference Communiqué was devoid of any real substance and predominantly highlighted the work already being done to assist Somalia. It did, however, reinforce the UN Security Council’s sentiment that no further extensions would be granted to transitional governance arrangements. The emphasis on security appeared to be minimal with no new initiatives being announced. Conference delegates agreed to focus on efforts already being undertaken to support Somali security and justice sectors, based on principles leading to a 'staged, Somali-led, internationally coordinated approach building upon existing structures which works towards an appropriate, accountable, adequate, and affordable security and justice sector'.

Discussions on the issue of piracy resulted in more concrete action which saw the signing of agreements dealing with the transfer and prosecution of suspected Somali pirates to neighbouring countries and eventually back to Somalia. Delegates pledged to continue supporting current maritime initiatives such as the ‘the Djibouti Code of Conduct and the adoption of an Exclusive Economic Zone’ for Somalia. Progress in this area will be assessed in June 2012 at the Piracy Conference in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Other issues discussed at the conference included ongoing support to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, stability and recovery efforts and the ongoing humanitarian crisis, which attracted its own side event to emphasise the importance of continued aid and support to the people of Somalia.

Another conference is scheduled to take place in June 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey to assess the political progress in Somalia and consider proposals to ‘incentivise progress and act against spoilers to the peace process’.

In his opening speech, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, painted a very bleak picture of Somalia over the last two decades. He appealed to the international community to help the Somali people because these problems ‘don’t just affect Somalia. They affect us all’, noting that piracy, kidnapping, extremism and terrorism threaten ‘the security of the whole world’. He acknowledged the international community’s absence from this space in that ‘politicians in the West have too often dismissed the problems of Somalia as simply too difficult and too remote to deal with’ and any assistance has been ‘sporadic and half-hearted’, concluding that ‘that fatalism has failed Somalia’. Cameron hoped that by hosting this conference, real momentum in the right direction will provide an opportunity for positive change in Somalia.

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, optimistically asserted that the conference ‘opened a space for peace and stability in Somalia’. The UN’s goal in Somalia, he said, is ‘ultimately... to transfer security responsibilities to the Somalis and establish sustainable, credible and indigenous security institutions in the country’. Although he acknowledged that this will take time, the international community and Somalia ‘must start now’, according to the Secretary-General.

The US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, strongly expressed the US’s position for a stable government to be established in Somalia by August 2012 and sought assurances from conference delegates not to support any further extension of the transitional government’s mandate. Clinton viewed the efforts to date as an opportunity to ‘build a durable peace for the Somalia people’ and undertook for the US to ‘look for ways to increase’ its involvement in Somalia. She flagged that this might include a ‘more permanent diplomatic presence’ once the security situation improves.

The French representative, Foreign Minister Alain Juppé, stressed the importance of training Somali military personnel through the European Union Training Mission (EUTM), based in Uganda, which recently trained around 1700 Somalis who have since returned to Somalia. An additional 600 recruits are expected to join them soon.

Kenya’s President, Mwai Kibaki, welcomed UN Security Council Resolution 2036 but noted that it did not include a maritime component, which he believes is ‘critical to the eventual success of the campaign in Somalia, as well as the fight against piracy and international terrorism’. Kibaki also emphasised the impact of the humanitarian crisis on Kenya, stating that the ‘size of the Somali displacement... far outweighs our capacity to carry’ and is ‘adversely impacting our political and socio-economic dynamics. It is posing growing and serious security threats to Kenya and the region’. Kibaki called on conference delegates to ‘map out a firm and durable solution’ that will help to repatriate Somali refugees and provide stability to the region.


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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