Security Council Considers Illicit Charcoal Trade in Somalia, Tensions over Mineral Resources, Eritrea Actions on Issue of Djibouti War Prisoners

18 February 2016
SC/12248

Security Council Considers Illicit Charcoal Trade in Somalia, Tensions over Mineral Resources, Eritrea Actions on Issue of Djibouti War Prisoners

7626th Meeting (AM)

The Chair of the “751/1907” Somalia-Eritrea Sanctions Committee provided an update to the Security Council today on the recent findings of its Monitoring Group, as delegates called for improved coordination to staunch the illegal charcoal trade in Somalia, and pressed Eritrea for “frank and sincere” cooperation over its reported involvement in the Yemen conflict, support for armed groups in Ethiopia and progress on the question of Djibouti war prisoners.

Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela), Council President for February, spoke in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009), recalling that the Committee had considered the Monitoring Group’s final reports relating to Somalia and Eritrea on 9 October 2015.  Regarding Somalia, the report found that maritime and mineral resources constituted a threat to peace, he said, noting in particular, the increased tensions between the federal Government of Somalia and regional administrations over mineral resources.

Furthermore, he said, Al-Shabaab had exploited the stretched capacity of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the Somali National Army and allied forces, and was seeking to keep communications open with the Yemen-based Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.  Meanwhile, regional administrations had encountered problems in controlling areas liberated from Al-Shabaab.  While the application of the ban on charcoal exports had improved, those transporting the commodity were using counterfeit documents, he said.

Turning to the report on Eritrea, he said the Monitoring Group had not found proof of that Government supporting Al-Shabaab, yet it did support other groups inside Ethiopia, in contravention of paragraph 16 of resolution 1907 (2009).  The Government of Eritrea had shown little willingness to cooperate with the Monitoring Group, which cited a lack of progress in solving the border dispute between Eritrea and Djibouti.  If the participation of Eritreans in the Yemen crisis was confirmed, that could constitute a violation of resolution 1907 (2009), he said.

More broadly, he said the Secretary-General had appointed eight experts to the Monitoring Group, which was working to extend its contact network in the Horn of Africa, in line with its new mandate.

In the ensuing debate, speakers expressed regret that the Monitoring Group had not been allowed into Eritrea for three years, and urged that country to enhance communication with the Committee under relevant Council resolutions.  “Little has changed,” said the representative of the United States, emphasizing that obstructing the Monitoring Group’s work was at odds with Eritrea’s calls for the lifting of sanctions imposed on it.  The United Kingdom’s representative said that, perhaps with a new Monitoring Group now in place, cooperation would follow.

The Russian Federation’s representative described attempts to increase pressure on the Asmara Government as counterproductive, while his counterpart from Senegal requested that the Monitoring Group provide additional information on the charge that Eritrean soldiers were in Yemen on behalf of the Arab coalition.  Speaking in his national capacity, Council President Ramírez announced that he had received an invitation to visit Eritrea from the country’s President, in his capacity as Chair of the Sanctions Committee.  That would be organized in the coming months, he added.

On the situation in Somalia, speakers said that differences between federal and regional authorities over maritime and mineral resources must be managed in an equitable manner.  Many also voiced concern that Al-Shabaab continued to threaten liberated areas.  Intercommunal tensions and infiltration of the region by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) were also serious problems raised.  In that context, many speakers expressed support for stepped-up efforts to staunch the illicit charcoal trade, pressing the Committee to maintain its crackdown and engage directly with countries that might be importing that commodity.

The Council also had a role to play in helping Somalia channel its natural-resource wealth into State-building, the Council heard, as Angola’s representative pressed it to support the Monitoring Group’s suggestion for a ban on charcoal exports.  Malaysia’s representative proposed a joint meeting between the 751/1907 Committee and the ISIL/Da’esh Sanctions Committee.

Also speaking today were representatives of Japan, Egypt, New Zealand, France, China, Spain and Uruguay.

The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 11:24 a.m.

Briefing

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), Council President for February, spoke in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009), saying first, in relation to the arms embargo on Somalia, that the subsidiary body had received a notification relating to resolution 2111 (2013), and two others relating to resolution 2011 (2013).  During informal consultation on 9 October 2015, the Committee had considered the Monitoring Group’s final reports on Somalia and Eritrea, which found that national interest in the former’s maritime and mineral resources was increasing, yet their management required improvement.  As such, they constituted a threat to peace.

On Somalia’s mineral resources, he said the Monitoring Group had noted an increase in tensions between the Federal Government and regional administrations, and that Al-Shabaab had taken advantage of the stretched capacity of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the Somali National Army and allied forces.  It had also found that Al-Shabaab was trying to keep communications with the Yemen-based Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula open, and that regional administrations had encountered problems in controlling areas liberated from Al-Shabaab.

Turning to the humanitarian front, he reported that humanitarian access was tenuous, especially in areas where Al-Shabaab had erected blockades, and that foreign and national forces in Somalia continued to attack civilians.  Application of the charcoal ban had improved since Al-Shabaab’s removal from export areas, but counterfeit documents were being used by those transporting that commodity.  The Monitoring Group suggested that Somalia, Member States, AMISOM and troop-contributing countries improve their coordination to ensure an effective mechanism against the illegal trade in Somali charcoal.

Regarding the security situation, he said the Group had expressed concern about the lack of information on the formation and location of security forces.  All States should support Somalia’s security sector reform programme, announced by the Government on 9 September 2015, in order to ensure delivery of technical and financial assistance for that sector.

Turning to the report on Eritrea, he said that the Monitoring Group had not found proof that the Government supported Al-Shabaab, yet it did support other groups inside Ethiopia, in contravention of paragraph 16 of resolution 1907 (2009).  The Eritrean Government had shown little willingness to cooperate with the Monitoring Group, which cited a lack of progress in solving the border dispute between Eritrea and Djibouti.  If the participation of Eritreans in the Yemen crisis was confirmed, that could constitute a violation of resolution 1907 (2009), he said.

He went on to recall that, following the adoption of resolution 2244 (2015), the Secretary-General had appointed eight experts — in the fields of arms, armed groups, financial affairs, humanitarian affairs, maritime affairs and regional issues, among others — to the Monitoring Group.  From 11 to 15 January, it had visited New York and held bilateral discussions with various groups, as well as with the Permanent Representative of Eritrea.

In its first update, the Monitoring Group had stated that it was working with the diplomatic community and stakeholders in the Horn of Africa to extend the contact network, in line with its new mandate, he continued.  The coordinator would provide the Committee with a midterm update and a final report by October 2015.  The Committee was considering a draft orientation note to provide States with recommendations for applying the arms embargo more effectively.  The Committee would approve those guidelines and publish them in March, he said.

Statements

PETER WILSON (United Kingdom), citing the attempted bombing of an airliner in Somalia earlier this month, said the Council must remain as attentive as ever.  It was inevitable that some, both inside the Government and out, would try to spoil the political process, and information on any such attempt must be brought to the Council’s attention by the Monitoring Group.  On the military side, he emphasized that Al-Shabaab could not be underestimated, warning:  “They are down, but they are far from out.”  The Monitoring Group must ensure that the Government was fulfilling the terms of the arms embargo suspension and building a truly national army.  With regard to Eritrea, he said it was “frankly outrageous” that the Monitoring Group had been unable to enter that county for three years.  The ball was in Eritrea’s court and it was to be hoped that, with a new Monitoring Group in place, cooperation would follow.

YOSHIFUMI OKAMURA (Japan) said the management of public finances in the run-up to the elections was crucial.  Spoiler networks could not be allowed to interfere, and the Council should be ready to identify those interfering in the process so that targeted sanctions might follow.  State-building must be Somali-led, but supported by the international community, he said, recalling that his country had recently provided $37.1 million in additional funds for that purpose, including support for the electoral process and police training.  It was unfortunate that the Monitoring Group had been unable to visit Eritrea since 2011, he said, stressing the obligation of Member States had to abide by Security Council resolutions.  It was to be hoped that the Government of Eritrea would engage with the new Monitoring Group in a cooperative and constructive manner, with support from the Sanctions Committee and the Council.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), underlining the threat still posed by Al-Shabaab, said recent developments had demonstrated how important it was for the Council to build upon momentum so that political reconciliation could be realized.  Threats to relief organizations and the obstruction of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Somalia were still a matter of concern, as was the export of coal from Somali ports, he said.

RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) expressed regret that the Monitoring Group had not been allowed into Eritrea and urged that country to enhance communication with the Committee under relevant Council resolutions.  Turning to Somalia, he noted that there had been significant positive momentum on dialogue and State institution-building, which had resulted in peace and security gains, as well as socioeconomic development.  Welcoming Somalia’s recent announcement of the electoral model for 2016, he urged the federal Government to work in a transparent manner with regional administrations to ensure their “buy in” to that process, which was crucial for the political transition.  Differences between federal and regional authorities over resources must be managed in an equitable manner, he added.  Expressing concern about the humanitarian situation, he noted that there had been 157 incidents of grave violations against children in 2015 and agreed that pressure on Al-Shabaab must continue.  He suggested a joint meeting between the 751/1907 Committee and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)/Da’esh Sanctions Committee, and supported recommendations for better coordination between maritime forces and the federal Government to curb the illegal charcoal trade.

PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand) said the Council had a role in helping Somalia channel its natural-resource wealth into State-building and regular pay for soldiers of the Somali National Army.  Illegal fishing remained an issue of concern, and depriving Al-Shabaab of financing was also a priority.  The onus was on Somalia and other Member States to implement the sanctions regime, but others also had an important role to play, including AMISOM and the Combined Maritime Forces.  With regard to Eritrea, he said that a visit to the Horn of Africa region by the Chair of the Sanctions Committee would be helpful.

PETR ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) expressed concern about Al-Shabaab’s tactics and its possible ties to Boko Haram and ISIL, noting that terrorist attacks had demonstrated that extremists were in a position to destabilize the situation.  Those factors, alongside the negative consequences of the conflict in Yemen, underscored the need for continued pressure.  He urged international support for African peacekeepers, expressing hope that implementation of resolution 2245 (2015) and broadening the mandate of the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) would increase its effectiveness.  Urging increased technical and other support in that regard, he called for a strengthening of the sanctions regime on Somalia.  Regarding Eritrea, he welcomed the absence of evidence that it was supporting Al-Shabaab, and described attempts to increase pressure on the Asmara Government as counterproductive.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal), encouraging the Monitoring Group to work with United Nations agencies in Kenya, as well as all regional stakeholders, expressed concern about the differences between Somalia’s federal Government and regional administrations over mining resources.  The trend had been for regional administrations to sign contracts with companies, he noted.  Condemning violations of the charcoal ban, he urged better coordination between the federal Government, federal administrations and forces on the ground to combat the illicit trafficking of that resource.  The charcoal embargo should be upheld and resolution 2298 (2015), on the links between transborder organized crime and terrorism, implemented, he stressed.  He voiced concern about the threat that Al-Shabaab continued to pose in liberated areas, as well as intercommunal tensions and ISIL infiltration in the region.  On Eritrea, he noted that the Monitoring Group had found no proof that the Government supported Al-Shabaab, and requested that the Group explain further how Eritrea supported armed groups in Ethiopia.  Calling upon Eritrea to cooperate more fully with the Monitoring Group, he said the assertion that Eritrean soldiers were in Yemen on behalf of the Arab coalition only led to questions.  “We would like further explanation regarding such allegations,” he emphasized, while also noting the lack of progress on the border dispute between Eritrea and Djibouti.

ALEXIS LAMEK (France), while welcoming the 16 December 2015 adoption of the Mogadishu Agreement and the creation of the 2016 electoral model, cautioned that both developments were tenuous.  Electoral reform was not yet complete, while local rivalries had stymied discussions on the federal model.  In addition, Al-Shabaab was far from being vanquished, he said, adding that the common goal was to continue the fight against that group.  Sanctions were a tool for supporting the political process, he said, emphasizing that spoilers must be identified and punished.  On Eritrea, he said that, while the Monitoring Group had found no evidence that it was supporting armed groups in the Horn of Africa, conditions for lifting sanctions had not been met.  France hoped to see Eritrea’s “frank and sincere” cooperation with the Monitoring Group, especially on the issue of Djibouti prisoners, he said, adding that he did not understand what was preventing Asmara’s cooperation.

DAVID PRESSMAN (United States) said there could be no peace in Somalia without a professional security sector.  Accurate Government reports on the state of its security forces were needed in order to judge whether arms and materiel were not being diverted.  Al-Shabaab remained a serious threat and “we remain committed to defeating that terrorist group”, he said.  Together with the Monitoring Group, the Committee should keep up its crackdown on the illicit charcoal trade and engage directly with countries that might be importing that commodity.  Noting that corruption would undercut any security gains, he emphasized that it was imperative that the Government redouble its efforts on financial transparency.  Allegations that international forces had attacked civilians in the Gedo area on 13 January in the wake of an Al-Shabaab attack on a Kenyan military base were deeply disturbing, he said, stressing that, when the actions of those fighting terrorists could potentially endanger rather than protect civilians, they merited serious scrutiny.  With regard to Eritrea, he said “little has changed, and frankly it needs to”.  Obstructing the Monitoring Group’s work was at odds with Eritrea’s calls for the lifting of sanctions.

 

JULIO HELDER MOURA LUCAS (Angola) said the capacity, or incapacity, of the Somali authorities to control areas liberated from Al-Shabaab was a matter of concern.  The Council should adopt an unequivocal stand by condemning the illicit trade in natural resources, and the Monitoring Group’s suggestion for a ban on charcoal exports should be supported.  With regard to Eritrea, he said he was pleased to note that there was no evidence that the Government had been supporting Al-Shabaab.  The Council should take note of that and take decisions accordingly.

ZHAO YONG (China) said that, with international support, the Government and people of Somalia would see the restoration of economic development and social progress.  However, sanctions should work for the benefit of the development of Somalia and the wider Horn of Africa region, he stressed, noting that, in the absence of evidence that Eritrea was supporting Al-Shabaab, relative changes should be made to the sanctions regime.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) urged the Council to open itself to the wider United Nations membership, emphasizing that open briefings by sanctions committee chairs “should be the norm”.  On Somalia, he called for a strategy to fight Al-Shabaab that would ban charcoal exports and stem financing flows.  Expressing concern about the humanitarian situation, especially in areas controlled by Al-Shabaab, he stressed the importance of punishment for human rights violations.  Regarding Eritrea, he underlined the importance of dialogue between that country’s Government and the Monitoring Group, saying that a visit to Eritrea by the Group would be welcome.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) expressed concern about Al-Shabaab, despite the “theoretical” loss of its firepower.  It was alarming to consider its possible contact with other terrorist groups, he said, underscoring the need to protect civilians.  He encouraged the Government to seek mediation and stability, especially in areas where humanitarian assistance was vital, and condemned violations of international humanitarian law by foreign and national forces.  Turning to Eritrea, he expressed regret that its support for armed groups in Yemen and Ethiopia were yet to be confirmed.  Spain looked forward to the Committee’s reports, to be presented in April and October, he said.

Mr. RAMÍREZ (Venezuela), Council President, spoke in his national capacity, expressing deep concern about the continued presence of Al-Shabaab, its persistent asymmetrical attacks on AMISOM and civilians alike, the influence of the Yemen conflict, and the potential expansion of Al-Qaida and ISIL/Da’esh, an alliance that could threaten peace and security.  He urged support for helping Somalia exercise the rule of law and end the illegal charcoal trade, as well as for strengthening its capacity to exercise control over its national resources.  On Eritrea, he said none of the reports had shown a link between that country and Al-Shabaab.  Qatar was mediating the territorial dispute with Djibouti and its troops were keeping the peace.  If the two reasons for imposing secondary sanctions on Eritrea were no longer present, the time had come to reconsider the scope of the sanctions against Asmara.  The Monitoring Group was overstepping its mandate in offering unsupported information, notably on the Eritrea-Ethiopia dispute, which fell outside its reach, he said, adding that an appropriate forum should be sought to address that situation.  Noting that the Monitoring Group had also received an unconfirmed report about Eritrean troops in Yemen, he said that he had himself received an invitation from that country’s President to visit as Chair of the Sanctions Committee.  That trip would be organized in the coming months, he said, emphasizing that the Committee must assess the flow of weapons into the region.

For information media. Not an official record.