On behalf of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia, and in accordance with paragraph 34 of Security Council resolution 2551 (2020), I have the honour to transmit herewith the final report of the Panel of Experts on Somalia.
In this connection, the Committee would appreciate it if the present letter and the report were brought to the attention of the members of the Security Council and issued as a document of the Council.
(Signed) Geraldine Byrne Nason
Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia
Letter dated 16 September 2021 from the Panel of Experts on Somalia addressed to the Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia
In accordance with paragraph 34 of Security Council resolution 2551 (2020), we have the honour to transmit herewith the final report of the Panel of Experts on Somalia.
(Signed) Richard Zabot
Acting Coordinator/arms expert
(Signed) John Peter Hazenberg
Armed groups/natural resources expert
(Signed) Ahmed Himmiche
Armed groups expert
(Signed) Irene Raciti
(Signed) Matthew Rosbottom
Al-Shabaab remains the most immediate threat to the peace, security and stability of Somalia. Despite ongoing efforts by Somali and international forces to curb Al-Shabaab’s operational capacity, the group’s ability to carry out complex, asymmetric attacks in Somalia remains undiminished. By exploiting the profound political differences that manifested in a prolonged period of uncertainty and heightened tension in 2021, Al-Shabaab remains poised to sustain the pace of its operations in Mogadishu, as well as in the federal member states, in the medium to long term.
To that end, the Panel of Experts on Somalia commends the Federal Government of Somalia and the federal member states for resolving the political impasse but remains concerned by an asymmetry of interests between their leaders that Al-Shabaab will continue to exploit. The 27 May 2021 agreement is a positive step towards the holding of elections. However, there remain unaddressed political tensions that brought about the country’s descent into armed confrontations that almost crippled Somalia after violence broke out in the capital in April 2021.
While efforts of the international community have sought to iron out political creases, the underlying, possibly irreconcilable clan and self-interests among political elites will continue to benefit Al-Shabaab. The group, therefore, remains a symptom of the ongoing political conflict – not the root cause – and all parties involved in Somalia must realign their priorities to overturn the very local conditions that allow Al-Shabaab to be successful.
The political difficulties of Somalia are occurring against the backdrop of broader regional instability and discord. The alliance between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia represents a strategy to reshape the politics of the region. The Panel will continue to investigate the ramifications on peace and security in Somalia, specifically the role of Eritrea-trained Somali recruits, the majority of whom remain in Eritrea, but some of whom have returned to Somalia to provide unspecified security functions. Beyond politically-driven instability, the region continues to be challenged by environmental and health emergencies, such as droughts, floods and coronavirus disease (COVID-19), exacerbating already critical humanitarian needs.
During the reporting period, Al-Shabaab continued to administer large areas of central and southern Somalia and exert its influence over areas where security forces are deployed, making it challenging for security forces to clear and hold towns under Al-Shabaab control. In this manner, Al-Shabaab retained its freedom of movement, allowing it to conduct ambushes and lay improvised explosive devices, hampering the deployment of public services and administration. In one case, attempts by Somali forces to halt Al-Shabaab expansion in Galmudug have yet to result in any gains on the ground.
The revised Somali transition plan paves the way to a progressive handover of full security responsibilities to the Somali National Security Forces by the end of 2023. However, its implementation remains at a standstill as the additional Somali Police and regional security forces are still expected to replace Somali National Army units as holding forces in Lower Shabelle.
Investigations into Al-Shabaab’s domestic revenue generation continue to show that the group generates enough revenue to sustain its insurgency for the foreseeable future. The Panel assesses that Al-Shabaab remains in a healthy financial position and is entrepreneurial in nature. Al-Shabaab derives its revenue through a range of extortion methods, including the illicit taxation of agriculture, vehicles, goods and livestock. This illicit taxation is collected through a network of checkpoints that Al-Shabaab relies on for the collection of much of its revenue. The group continues to assert its ability to collect extortion money throughout central and southern Somalia, including from areas not under its direct control, such as Mogadishu.
Al-Shabaab utilizes the domestic banking system to deposit and store funds, without institutional preference. Cash money, however, is the predominant means for the group’s financial mobilization, with the majority of deposits and withdrawals of money made in cash. The Federal Government of Somalia has taken steps to strengthen the Somali financial sector in order to combat terrorism financing through legislation and oversight, such as the financial disruption development programme. However, the lack of enforcement of the Mobile Money Regulations of 2019 and the deficiency of reporting and investigations into Al-Shabaab’s finances remain as barriers to degrading the group’s revenue generation system.
Regarding weapons and ammunition management, the Federal Government of Somalia, in November 2020 and February 2021, invited the Panel to assist in a joint technical assessment of the Halane armoury in Mogadishu and to assess the challenges posed by the high-explosive rounds of ammunition stored there. Beyond the management of high-explosive ammunition, the Federal Government of Somalia has still to implement an accountable weapons and ammunition tracing system for all Somali security forces, in accordance with Security Council resolution 2551 (2020).
Al-Shabaab, political unrest and clashes between rival clans continue to greatly affect the security of civilians in Somalia. From January to July 2021, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) recorded 708 civilian casualties, mostly attributed to Al-Shabaab. By 1 August 2021, there were nearly 3 million internally displaced persons in Somalia, 537,000 of whom had fled their homes between January and July 2021 alone, with conflict-related displacement accounting for over 70 per cent of the cases. Al-Shabaab used forced displacement as collective punishment for populations resisting its authority. Displacement was also the result of political instability, particularly in Gedo Region and in and around Mogadishu.
The insecurity generated by active conflicts, the proliferation of weapons and armed actors also affected humanitarian operations, including through lack of access and restrictions on how and where these operations can occur. While Al-Shabaab continues to be responsible for the highest number of violations of international humanitarian law involving the targeting of civilians, there were several reports of human rights violations perpetrated by federal and regional security forces. Also, clan militias were responsible for a number of abuses, including killings, abductions and the destruction of civilian property. Concerningly, reports of conflict-related sexual violence and child recruitment by different armed actors are on the increase.
Efforts by the Federal Government of Somalia, Jubbaland and the international community have ensured that charcoal exports have remained on hold over the reporting period. Political pressure on both the export and import sides, monitoring and surveillance, including by international naval forces, have combined to provide strong deterrence. However, networks for the export of Somali charcoal remain in place and a variety of political and security actors stand to benefit from any potential future sales. Therefore, existing stockpiles around Kismayo, which have a wholesale value of approximately $40 million, continue to pose a threat to peace and security.
While charcoal exports have remained on hold, the effects of charcoal production are beginning to manifest in broader climate and environmental se curity challenges. In some cases, Al-Shabaab has already begun to exploit the impact of climate change by providing communities with protection from flooding, acting as a service provider to communities that receive little support from the Government. Thes e developments may lead to new challenges on how to address insecurity in Somalia.