On 22 February 2012, the Security Council imposed a ban on the export of all charcoal from Somalia to curb a significant revenue source from Al-Shabaab (UNSCR 2036). This followed a large-scale Kenyan military intervention that began in October 2011, and the expansion of AMISOM’s mandate and forces from 12,000 to 17,000 to incorporate Kenyan forces. Al-Shabaab and a number of its leading members and supporters had been subject to individual targeted sanctions (asset freeze and travel ban) since April 2010. The organization was accused of linkages to Al-Qaida and officially affiliated itself with Al-Qaida in February 2012.
Over the course of 2012, Al-Shabaab lost a significant amount of territory under its control, including Kismayo, the second largest port in the country (which fell in October 2012). An eight-year political transitional period came to an end in August 2012, when the Parliament was sworn in and a new Prime Minister was appointed. Members of the Parliament in Mogadishu elected the academic and civic activist Hassan Sheikh Mohamud president in September 2012, in the first presidential elections in decades. In a further review of the situation (including the mandate of the AU force) in October 2012, the Council was divided over whether to relax the ban on arms imports for Somali government forces (as requested by the AU) or to lift the charcoal ban (as requested by Kenya). The peacekeeping mandate was subsequently extended by a year in November (in UNSCR 2073), as was the UNSCR 1846 mandate on piracy (in UNSCR 2077). Both the arms embargo and charcoal ban remained in place. At that stage, Member States lost interest in making more designations in spite of the recommendations by the Monitoring Group. The list has been largely frozen ever since and some of the designated individuals are now deceased, with the exception of two individuals designated in 2018.
The Council renewed the mandate of AMISOM for another year in UNSCR 2093 (6 March 2013) and at the same time agreed to a partial lifting of the arms embargo (its longest standing arms embargo) on arms and materiel to forces of the Somali government, for an initial period of one year. However, heavier weaponry (MANPADS, high caliber guns and mortars, etc.) remained on the prohibited list.
The general transition from a focus on conflict resolution to peacebuilding continued throughout 2013, as the Council established in May 2013 a UN Assistance Mission for Somalia (UNSOM) to assist the government with governance issues, security sector reform (SSR), and coordination of donor assistance. UNSCR 2111 (24 July 2013) clarified amendments to the arms embargo, maintaining the secondary sanctions on Eritrea and the ban on exports of charcoal from the country (for more information on the secondary sanctions on Eritrea, see the Eritrea sanctions regime). Humanitarian relief organizations expressed concerns about the restrictions of the counter terrorism regime that prevented them from contact and negotiation for access to areas of the country under the control of Al-Shabaab. Following Al-Shabaab’s dramatic attack in Nairobi, the Security Council authorized an increase in the troop ceiling of AMISOM from 17,731 to 22,126 (UNSCR 2124) and while the decline in the incidence of acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia continued in 2013, anti-piracy measures were reauthorized in November 2013 (UNSCR 2077) and annually thereafter (UNSCR 2125, 2184, 2246, 2316, 2383, and 2442).
In March 2014, a leaked Monitoring Group report emphasized the “high level and systematic abuses in weapons and ammunition management and distribution” from the Government of Somalia. Following the release of a modified official report, in both March and October 2014, the Security Council renewed the arms embargo exemptions to the government of Somalia, but enhanced monitoring and reporting mechanisms to curb abuse (UNSCR 2142 and 2182). By 2018, the monitoring and reporting mechanisms had not worked and the adjustment of the arms embargo led to an increase in the number of weapons purchased by the government being sold in the Somali black market. In addition, UNSCR 2182 (24 October 2014) authorized the maritime interdiction and inspection of charcoal or military equipment in violation of the sanctions (renewed annually thereafter).
Al-Shabaab continued to conduct numerous terrorist attacks (in Somalia and neighboring countries) and threaten governmental control of the territory. Deadly attacks took place throughout the country, including in Mogadishu and against AMISOM, as well as in Kenya. There is evidence that Al-Shabaab may have diversified its sources of revenue away from the charcoal trade toward more local sources, including taxation, kidnapping, extortion and elephant poaching. In 2014 and 2015, multiple counter-insurgency offensives were launched by AMISOM and the Somali National Army with occasional success in regaining territory. Kenya remained militarily engaged with Al-Shabaab and the United States launched airstrikes targeting some of its leaders. Yet, as of mid-2015, in line with Member State reluctance to support such an operation, a joint AU-UN report concluded that conditions in Somalia were not yet appropriate for the deployment of a UN Peacekeeping mission, and that further UN activity should strictly adhere to security requirements and take into account the remaining operational and security constraints imposed by Al-Shabaab.
Following a major operation by AMISOM (especially by Kenyan and Ethiopian forces, with the support of the Somali army and the United States) in 2015, the country made progress on the establishment of a new electoral model in a federalized state under a renewed constitution. Elections were scheduled for August 2016, but were repeatedly postponed. The Government also announced sweeping reforms within the security sector and began to put in place measures improving its weapons and ammunition management, but the results remain limited.
Since 2016, Al-Shabaab has increasingly relied on revenue from natural resources for its financing. In addition to the trade of charcoal, which reemerged as an important source of funds (notably to Gulf states, which earned the group about $10 million in 2017), the taxation of illicit sugar trade, agricultural production, and livestock have all served to finance the organization.
In this period, there has also been a greater engagement of the United States military in Somalia. On 21 November 2017, a strike was carried out by the US Africa Command and reportedly killed over 100 Al-Shabaab militants. The United States more than doubled its officially reported military personnel in Somalia, reaching 500 soldiers, civilians, and contractors of the US Department of Defense.
In February 2018, following a complex and repeatedly delayed process, Somalia elected former Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as “Farmajo,” as President. Soon after his election, he offered an amnesty to Al-Shabaab members who choose to lay down their arms within 60 days. It is estimated that about 50 members of the group have surrendered, including some high-profile leaders.
However, the security situation in Somalia remained fragile. In spite of some territorial gains and the killing of several key Al-Shabaab’s leaders in 2015, the group was in 2018 still able to inflict large-scale, complex conventional and non-conventional attacks against AMISOM, government, foreign and local civilian targets, which led to worsening humanitarian situation. The group targeted high-profile individuals, including politicians, international civil servants, and sites like hotels and security compounds. Al-Shabaab was able to adapt to the circumstances and its territorial displacement from major urban centers resulted in a further spread throughout the region, partly through a strategy of direct attacks in AMISOM contributing countries.
On 14 November 2018 the Security Council lifted the sanctions on Eritrea, following five consecutive years in which the Monitoring Group found no evidence of the country’s support for Al-Shabaab. The lifting took place following a request from Ethiopia in the aftermath of the July 2018 peace summit between the two countries, and as Eritrea’s relations with Djibouti were improving. The Security Council had been divided on the lifting of Eritrea sanctions for several years because although there was no evidence of direct support to Al-Shabaab, Eritrea had consistently refused to cooperate with the Monitoring Group and continued to support armed groups in Djibouti and Ethiopia (for more information, see EP2 of the Eritrea sanctions regime).
According to the Panel of Experts on Somalia (formerly Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea) report at the end of the episode, Al-Shabaab was able to further diversify and establish a steady stream of funds for its activities, primarily through a broad taxation in southern and central Somalia. The group was also able to maintain sources of revenue in territories it did not fully control, including for example through the taxation of imports incoming to the Port of Mogadishu (by infiltrating port institutions, obtaining detailed cargo manifests, and then extorting business owners). As of the end of the episode, the group controlled large portions of rural territory and some urban centers in Somalia (the scope of its territorial control remained largely unchanged since the end of major AMISOM operations in July 2015), and remained the principal threat to peace and security in the country, including through increased reliance on improvised explosive devices.
Constrain Al-Shabaab from challenging the transition process (the 2008 Djibouti Peace Agreement and the Roadmap).
Signal support for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, and subsidiary concerns such as the transitional government and process, good governance, retrospective justification of Kenya’s intervention, anti-terrorism, anti-piracy, and condemning violence against women and children, among others.
Ongoing arms imports embargo on all parties to the conflict (with conditional government exemptions) and designated individuals and entities, travel ban, and asset freeze on listed individuals / entities (including rebel factions).
Newly imposed charcoal exports ban from Somalia.
Ongoing secondary sanctions on arms imports (government forces, individuals / entities) and exports embargo, travel ban, asset freeze (individual / entity and government), and a ban on the coercive collection of diaspora tax.
Maximum number of designees during the episode: 15 individuals and 1 entity.
UN sanctions can have some non-discriminating impact on the general population, since they include arms embargoes, diplomatic sanctions, and/or restrictions on the conduct of particular activities or the export of specific commodities.
Sanctions Committee and Monitoring Group in place. Designation criteria were specified andSomalia sanctions regime targets designated. Enforcement authorities specified (AMISOM).
The Monitoring Group argued that although Al-Shabaab has suffered conventional military setbacks since 2012, this has not affected the group’s capacity to engage in both conventional and non-conventional warfare. Yet, while the group has continued to pose a major security threat to Somalia, there were periods when the political process advanced during the episode.
While Al-Shabaab’s income from charcoal was temporarily reduced, the use of military force by Kenya, Ethiopia, and the US in cooperation with AMISOM appear to have been the most significant for constraining Al-Shabaab forces.
There continue to be diffuse purposes contained in UNSCRs – Al-Shabaab, piracy, support to transitional government, condemnation of external intervention, secondary sanctions on Eritrea, humanitarian relief operations, natural resources management, human rights violations, treatment of women and children – which distracts from the primary purpose.
The continued presence of AMISOM, diplomatic efforts by IGAD and donors, and UN negotiations are more significant to the outcome.
Strengthening security apparatus of sending states, increase in international enforcement capability, resource diversion, humanitarian consequences, decline in credibility/legitimacy of the UN Security Council.