News / Africa

UN Monitoring Group to Recommend al-Shabab Sanctions

Al-Shabab fighters display weapons as they conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu, Somalia. (File Photo)
Al-Shabab fighters display weapons as they conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu, Somalia. (File Photo)

The United Nations special envoy for Somalia says a Security Council-appointed monitoring group will recommend sanctions against the al-Qaida linked militant group al-Shabab.  Six East African countries involved in the fight against al-Shabab are appealing for more international support as they seek to defeat the rebels.

With al-Shabab said to be in disarray, the defense chiefs of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and Burundi met at African Union headquarters Monday to discuss how to defeat them.  But sources close to the talks say the day ended with no agreement on a command structure that would coordinate activities of the various forces involved in the fight.

The six defense officials issued an appeal to the United Nations Security Council to impose tough penalties against al-Shabab's leaders.

U.N. special envoy for Somalia Augustine Mahiga says a Somalia-Eritrea Sanctions Monitoring Group is preparing a list of individuals to be recommended for sanctions. "Sanctions will be recommended, and it will be upon such a recommendation that the council may invoke targeted sanctions against such individuals or group of individuals.  It will depend on verified and proved evidence of people who are engaged or actively involved in undermining the peace process," he said.

African diplomats say the inconclusive talks among the defense chiefs would resume in a few days.  

U.N. Chief of Field Operations Susana Malcorra, who is in the region to assess conditions, says closer cooperation among the various entities that oppose al-Shabab is essential.  She says the African Union Mission in Somalia's recent success in driving al-Shabab out of the capital, Mogadishu, provides an opportunity for strengthening Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, or TFG.

"There is an opportunity.  We need to rethink a few aspects of this architecture.  AMISOM doing its part in Mogadishu, and eventually beyond.  The TFG is becoming the backbone of the security of the country.  And the whole political arena being addressed," she said.

Some complex command and control issues remain to be settled before the various anti-al-Shabab forces can begin coordinating efforts.  But AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra says the recent entry of trained and well-equipped Kenyan forces in Somalia makes it possible for the first time to think of cutting off al-Shabab's supply lines.

"You see al-Shabab under pressure because Kenya is taking advantage of assets, helicopters, aircraft, navy vessels.  So clearly today, we have even the possibility to implement a no-fly zone, thanks to Kenya's assets.  So it is different," he said.

Lamamra says AMISOM forces should be close to their full authorized strength of 12,000 troops by the end of the year.  There are now 9,800 African Union troops in the region.

A battalion of troops from Djibouti is expected to begin deployment on December 10.  Another battalion from Burundi, one of the two main troop contributors, is set to arrive soon afterward.

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