22 February 2012
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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security Section
What is the current situation in Somalia?
(Source: Central Intelligence Agency, World Fact Book)
Over the last two decades, Somalia has been characterised by armed conflict and lawlessness, and often associated with famine, extremism, piracy, kidnapping, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and refugees. In this time, numerous United Nations (UN) and intergovernmental task forces have attempted to deal with the effects of this struggling state, such as refugees and piracy, but little has been achieved in addressing the root causes of Somalia’s plight.
Ongoing concerns about security and the humanitarian situation in Somalia were recently brought to the fore by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who on 14 November 2011 announced that ‘Somalia is a failed state that directly threatens British interests’.  Consequently, the British Government has scheduled a conference in London for 23 February 2012 to draw the international community’s attention to the protection of trade routes through the Gulf of Aden, anti-piracy operations, internal security, the impact of Somalia’s instability on regional countries, and ultimately to address ‘the causes of conflict and instability in Somalia’.
The London Somalia Conference aims to consolidate international efforts addressing issues that affect Somalia and its neighbours. More than 40 government and international organisations are expected to attend. The Australian Government will be represented by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, who will also speak.
The impetus for holding the conference at this time is the planned conclusion of transitional government arrangements in Somalia in August 2012, ongoing IDP and refugee concerns, the burgeoning piracy ‘industry’ off the coast of Somalia, and the problem of extremism in the form of the militant group Al Shabaab.
The most recent assessment on Somalia was presented to the UN Security Council in a special report by the Secretary-General on 31 January 2012. The Secretary-General described the political and security situation in Somalia as being ‘at a tipping point’ and recommended a further expansion of uniformed personnel to the UN-authorised African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to ensure progress that has already been made continues to move forward. The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss the Secretary-General’s recommendations on 22 February 2012.
Due to the worst drought in 60 years, on 20 July 2011 the United Nations declared the Horn of Africa to be in a state of famine. The situation was exacerbated by extremists Al-Shabaab preventing humanitarian agencies from accessing affected areas. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has reported that ‘Somalia generates the third highest number of refugees in the world (after Afghanistan and Iraq)’. By February 2012, around 967 761 Somali refugees had sought sanctuary in countries within the region and close to 1.36 million Somalis were said to be internally displaced. The Australian Government’s humanitarian aid response to the famine had amounted to around $98 million in December 2011, plus an additional $25 million as a result of a dollar-for-dollar appeal that brought $12.7 million in Australian donations.
On 3 February 2012 the United Nations downgraded the famine to an emergency situation but more than 2 million people, almost one third of the population, are still facing a crisis. The exact death toll from the famine is unknown at this time, but tens of thousands of people are thought to have perished (the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that despite the recent downgrade in the status of the crisis, the death rate still remains at the famine threshold of approximately two deaths per 10 000 people each day). The UN has since commissioned a study to assess the impact of the famine in greater detail.
Since the Djibouti Peace Process was agreed to in 2000, Somalia has struggled to maintain a functioning interim government, currently known as the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). In June 2011, the Kampala Accord was agreed to with the aim of finally bringing interim governance arrangements to an end by 20 August 2012 and replacing them with a more permanent structure. To facilitate this process, an ambitious roadmap was adopted in September 2011, with agreement by all parties, to prioritise security and stablisation, constitutional, reconciliation and governance activities.
However, by mid-December 2011, a parliamentary crisis had arisen when parliamentarians put forward a motion of no confidence in the Speaker of the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP). The African Union has been instrumental in mediating the Somali parliamentary crisis, which, at the time of writing, is still unresolved. Later in December 2011, the Somali National Consultative Constitutional Conference was held in Garowe (in the Puntland region of Somalia) to set out the framework and principles for drafting the country’s new constitution. The Garowe Principles stipulate that the final draft of the Somali Federal Constitution will be finalised by 20 April 2012 and voted on at the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) in May 2012. The NCA will then be dissolved and on 30 May 2012, a bicameral federal legislature will be formed and a new Somali Parliament sworn in on 15 June 2012.
In a show of support, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia (SRSGS), Dr Augustine P. Mahiga, reopened the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) in the capital Mogadishu following a 17 year absence. The SRSGS’s return is expected to encourage greater engagement from other international actors in Somalia.
AMISOM was originally authorised by the UN Security Council in January 2007 for an initial period of six months.  The mandate authorised ‘all necessary measures’ to be taken under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations to support reconciliation efforts and has been consistently re-authorised by the UN Security Council since 2007, based on recommendations by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council. Burundi and Uganda provide AMISOM with the bulk of uniformed personnel in support of operations around the Somali capital Mogadishu. While the Djibouti Peace Agreement expressly forbids neighbouring countries from contributing troops to any peacekeeping force, Kenyan and Ethiopian troops, working with TFG forces, have conducted security operations against Al-Shabaab outside Mogadishu. Kenyan forces currently remain in Somalia.
AMISOM has three components: military, police and civilian. The military component presently has an authorised strength of 12 000 (as at September 2011, 9595 troops were in the country) mainly from Uganda and Burundi. The police component currently has around 50 officers from Burundi, Ghana, Gambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda. The Political Affairs Unit (civilian component) assists the TFG with its daily activities.
On 5 January 2012, the African Union Peace and Security Council agreed to request that the UN Security Council expand AMISOM from the current authorised strength of 12 000 to 17 731. The urgency of this request was reinforced by the UN Secretary-General in his special report to the UN Security Council on 31 January 2012 in which he reassured the council that ‘security gains continue to be made against Al-Shabaab’ and that conditions for establishing long-term peace in the region are being enabled. To continue along this track the mission is in urgent need of additional personnel.
On 11 January 2012, an African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council delegation addressed the UN Security Council to promote the need for greater support for the mission in Somalia. The AU Peace and Security Council Commissioner highlighted that ‘we cannot hide from the fact that, so far, the international community has yet to fully assume its responsibility in Somalia’ and has consistently ‘failed to seize opportunities to further peace and reconciliation... and to provide support that was truly commensurate with the challenges’.  One of the AU delegates optimistically pointed out that right now there is ‘a ray of hope... beginning to flicker in Somalia’ as security gains are being achieved and the Roadmap progressed. The United States supported the AU delegation’s sentiments but warned that transition deadlines must be met or US support would be withdrawn.
The security situation in Somalia rapidly deteriorated when extremist militant group Al-Shabaab formed. Originally established as the militant wing of the Somali Council of Islamic Courts, Al-Shabaab quickly took control of key areas in southern and central Somalia in 2006. Ethiopian forces entered Somalia in December 2006 and January 2007 to assist TFG forces in driving out Al-Shabaab elements. Since that time, the organisation has waged a campaign of violent attacks against TFG and foreign forces, including AMISOM, and disrupts humanitarian operations. Australia listed Al-Shabaab as a terrorist organisation in August 2009.
While Al-Shabaab has usually been linked to Al-Qaeda, it was not until February 2012 that they became formally affiliated with the international terrorist organisation. The increasing terrorist threat in the region has reportedly drawn the interest of the United States in targeting groups such as Al-Shabaab with aerial drone strikes.  US drones are allegedly also used in counter-piracy operations. The Kenyan Government also intervened in October 2011 when it deployed thousands of troops across the border into Somalia to fight against Al-Shabaab following a number of cross-border kidnappings and security incidents. Kenyan forces currently remain in Somalia and are expected to be ‘rehatted’ to operate under a new AMISOM mandate.
Acts of piracy off the Somali coast have attracted significant international attention since 2005. The most recent assessment by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) recorded a rise in piracy and armed robbery at sea with 97 attacks reported in the first quarter of 2011 off the Somali coast—an increase of 62 incidents for the same period in 2010.
Concerns about the potential for piracy and armed robbery against commercial vessels to escalate were flagged by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia back in 2003. The Group’s report highlighted that Somalia’s once booming fishing industry had been effectively decimated over the previous decade due to the world’s fishing fleets continuously fishing the unregulated Somali coast. The UN described the situation at the time as resembling ‘naval warfare’, noting that fishing boats were ‘typically mounted with heavy anti-aircraft canons’(sic) and that many of the crews were armed. The UN warned that this would have ‘far-reaching consequences’ and would result in ‘disastrous’ effects on Somalia’s marine resources. Without a functioning government to control the Somali coastline, alternative sources of income were sought by local fishermen who eventually turned piracy off the Horn of Africa into a lucrative business through hefty ransom payments.
Somali pirates have since become more daring in their attacks and, as a result, trade routes in and around the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden continue to be disrupted. The IMB cautioned in April 2011 that ‘we’re seeing a dramatic increase in the violence and techniques used by pirates in the seas off Somalia’ and urged for ‘strong action’ to be taken to prevent more hijackings. International efforts to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia have prompted an unprecedented number of coalition activities over the last number of years, including:
- the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR Somalia), Operation Atalanta established in December 2008 to protect humanitarian deliveries to Somalia and other vulnerable vessels. A total of 28 countries contribute to this operation, which was recently extended until December 2012.
- US-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) comprises three task forces: Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150) was established around the time of Operation Enduring Freedom to conduct maritime security operations around the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151) was established as a multinational task force in January 2009 to conduct anti-piracy patrols along the Gulf of Aden. Combined Task Force 152 (CTF 152) predominantly operates around the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
- North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Operation Ocean Shield was established in 2008 (known then as Operation Allied Provider) following a request from the UN to escort humanitarian aid vessels to Somalia. NATO naval forces continue to provide escorts and conduct counter-piracy operations. Turkey, Denmark, Italy, the UK and the US currently contribute naval vessels to this operation.
- other countries such as China, Russia, India, Malaysia and South Korea have also deployed major fleet units to conduct counter-piracy operations and protect trade routes.
- Tanzania, South Africa and Mozambique recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding allowing their defence forces to conduct joint training exercises and counter-piracy operations.
The UN Security Council has effectively sanctioned all of these efforts under a series of resolutions authorising ‘cooperating states’ to employ ‘all necessary means to repress acts of piracy and armed robbery’, consistent with international law.
The response to the vexed issue of what to do with captured pirates varies from country to country. To provide some guidance to countries along the western Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and Arabian Sea, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) established the Djibouti Code of Conduct in January 2009, in which signatories undertake to cooperate on matters, under international law, relating to the prosecution of alleged pirates, seizure of suspected pirate vessels, aiding vessels under attack, collaboration on operations and information sharing.
On 29 May 2009, the Australian Government announced Australia’s military contribution to the fight against piracy off the Horn of Africa. Royal Australian Navy (RAN) (frigate) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) (AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft) assets already operating in the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) were assigned under Operation Slipper to conduct counter-piracy operations. The following month, the Australian Government made a further announcement that $500 000 would be contributed to the Joint European Commission/UN Office of Drugs and Crime’s Counter Piracy Program ‘to assist Kenyan authorities in receiving and processing apprehended piracy suspects’. Australia continues to contribute to this program.
The RAN recently deployed HMAS Melbourne to the MEAO, as part of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), to relieve HMAS Parramatta on what is the 28th rotation of a RAN frigate since September 2001. The RAN has also contributed to rotational command duties under the CMF by providing a naval command group on three occasions to CTF 150 and once to CTF 152.
Following the Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial (AUKMIN) meetings in January 2012, the Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd announced additional funding of $2 million for the UN Trust Fund for AMISOM. The additional funds are intended to support the proposed expansion of AMISOM.
Australia will also host an international counter-piracy conference in Perth in 2012 to ‘explore ways to assist Somalia and other affected countries to address the drivers of piracy’.
Outcomes from the London Somalia Conference on 23 February 2012 are expected to be assessed at a conference in Istanbul later in the year. The London Conference is primarily focused on building on the gains already achieved in Somalia and applying further strategies to maintain forward momentum.
Somalia is currently ‘at a tipping point’ and needs greater support from the international community to move forward. As the first significant step towards real progress in 20 years, the conference, at last, represents a ‘ray of hope’.
. Foreign & Commonwealth Office, ‘London Somalia Conference’, FCO website, viewed 20 February 2012, http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/somalia-conference/ and K Rudd (Minister for Foreign Affairs), Foreign Minister to attend first G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, media release, 18 February 2012, viewed 20 February 2012, http://www.foreignminister.gov.au/releases/2012/kr_mr_120218.html
. Ban Ki Moon (United Nations Secretary-General), ‘Special report of the Secretary-General on Somalia’, United Nations Security Council, 31 January 2012, S/2012/74, viewed 20 February 2012, http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/sgrep12.htm
. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) ‘is mandated to conduct Peace Support Operations in Somalia to stabilize the situation in the country in order to create conditions for the conduct of Humanitarian activities and an immediate take over by the United Nations’. African Union Mission in Somalia, ‘AMISOM Mandate’, AMISOM website, viewed 20 February 2012, http://amisom-au.org/about/amisom-mandate/ and ibid.
. Ban Ki Moon (United Nations Secretary-General), Secretary-General condemns Al-Shabaab seizure of property, equipment in Somalia belonging to organizations, UN agencies providing humanitarian assistance, media release, 28 November 2011, SG/SM/13975, viewed 20 February 2012, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2011/sgsm13975.doc.htm
. In May–June 2000, the President of Djibouti convened a conference to pursue peace in Somalia. The resulting Djibouti Peace Process brought the creation of a transitional parliament and an elected President to Somalia in August 2000. United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), ‘United Nations and Somalia’, UNPOS website, November 2000, viewed 20 February 2012, http://www.un.org/peace/africa/pdf/SOMALIA.pdf
. The parties to the Roadmap include representatives from the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP), Puntland State of Somalia, Galmudug State of Somalia, Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa (ASWJ) from the south of Somalia, African Union and the United Nations. Consultative meeting on ending the transition in Somalia, Statement on adoption of the Roadmap, Mogadishu, 6 September 2011, viewed 20 February 2012, http://unpos.unmissions.org/Portals/UNPOS/Repository%20UNPOS/110906%20-%20Signed%20statement%20on%20adoption%20of%20the%20Roadmap.pdf and Roadmap, Mogadishu, 6 September 2011, viewed 20 February 2012, http://unpos.unmissions.org/Portals/UNPOS/Repository%20UNPOS/110906%20-%20Initialled%20Roadmap%20(The%20Annex).pdf
. African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), AU High Representative HE Rawlings mediates on the Somali parliament crises, media release, 25 January 2012, viewed 20 February 2012, http://amisom-au.org/2012/01/au-high-representative-h-e-rawlings-mediates-on-the-somali-parliament-crises/ and AMISOM, AU Deputy Special Representative for Somalia meets with visiting Ugandan Foreign and International Affairs Minister in Mogadishu, media release, 13 February 2012, viewed 20 February 2012, http://amisom-au.org/2012/02/au-deputy-special-representative-for-somalia-meets-with-visiting-ugandan-foreign-and-international-affairs-minister-in-mogadishu/
. Ban Ki Moon, ‘Special report of the Secretary-General on Somalia’, op. cit.
. United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Now time for international community to make vital investment in Somalia to nurture fragile peace process, political affairs head tells security council, media release, 11 January 2012, viewed 20 February 2012, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2012/sc10516.doc.htm
. Ban Ki Moon, ‘Special report of the Secretary-General on Somalia’, op. cit.
. United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia, ‘Letter dated 4 November 2003 from the Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia addressed to the President of the Security Council’, UN Security Council, S/2003/1035, 4 November 2003, viewed 20 February 2012, http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2003/1035
. United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia, ‘Letter dated 4 May 2006 from the Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia addressed to the President of the Security Council’, UN Security Council, S/2006/229, 4 May 2006, viewed 20 February 2012, http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2006/229
. ‘Attacks off the Somali coast drive piracy to record high, reports IMB’, op. cit.
. UN Security Council Resolutions 1814 (2008), 1816 (2008), 1838 (2008), 1844 (2008), 1846 (2008), 1851 (2008), 1897 (2009), 1918 (2010), 1950 (2010), 1976 (2011), 2015 (2011), and 2020 (2011), UNSC website, viewed 20 February 2012, http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/unsc_resolutions11.htm
. Ban Ki Moon, ‘Special report of the Secretary-General on Somalia’, op. cit.
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