UNMAS is a component of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) under UNSCRs 2232 and 2182, and United Nations Support Office for Somalia (UNSOS) under UNSCR 2245. It delivers explosive management support to the security sector and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), weapons and ammunition management (WAM) support to the Federal Government (FGS), and explosive management support towards humanitarian and employment initiatives under UN General Assembly resolution 68/72.
Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) deployed by Al Shabaab and other parties primarily target Government authorities and security services, AMISOM and the international community. Civilians, however, are heavily impacted, usually as “collateral”, comprising 454 out of 887 victims of 277 IEDs in 2015. UNMAS interventions cannot end the threat of IEDs in Somalia; this can only be achieved through political settlement, enhanced intelligence or military victory. UNMAS does, however, lessen the impact of IEDs through ensuring the more coherent capturing of information on IED use, and empowering the State and AMISOM with the technical skills to detect and dispose of IEDs.
Decades of conflict in Somalia have resulted in, and will continue to result in, limited quantities of unexploded ordnance (UXO). In 2015 52 Somalis were killed or injured by UXO, including 29 boys, or 56% of all casualties. While not an overwhelming threat to human life in terms of scale, the presence of UXO perpetuates a sense of threat and undermines stability by maintaining a visual link with conflict, and is cited by returnees as a source of concern. There is some evidence to suggest that abandoned ammunition stores have presented groups such as Al Shaabab with the opportunity to harvest explosives that can be used in the manufacture of IEDs. Minefields exist along the border with Ethiopia, and are being cleared by humanitarian NGOs operating under the Government’s “Badbaado” plan for explosive hazard management. Anti-tank landmines are used very rarely on roads, and are usually placed for a short period of time to target security forces.
UNMAS, as a component of an UNSOS non-lethal logistical support package, provides advice, analysis, training, mentoring and equipment to AMISOM. This support targets all aspects of the force, enabling it to plan safer operations, while direct training, mentoring and equipment enhances the capacity of combat engineers and dedicated IED-Defeat/EOD teams. This enables AMISOM to remain mobile where there are IEDs on roads, and to protect personnel and assets.
As a component of UNSOM, UNMAS provides strategic policy advice and coordination to the Government on explosive hazards. This centres around support to the Somali Explosive Management Authority (SEMA), towards inclusion of SEMA personnel in the FGS budget, passage of explosive management legislation, and the development of a plan for explosive management in Somalia, all of which were achieved in 2015.
Through UNSOM, UNMAS supported the FGS to develop a national police ‘Heegan Plan’, towards the establishment of basic police services throughout Somalia, and further development specialist capacities, including EOD/IED defeat. With support from Canada, Italy, Japan and the UK, UNMAS trained, equipped and mentored the police in EOD/IEDD, and has supported the development of operating and training structures towards sustainability. In 2016 UNMAS will develop a four-year plan for comprehensive police EOD support.
The partial and time-bound, lifting of the arms embargo to Somalia enabled the delivery of weapons or military equipment, and the provision of advice, assistance and training, for the development of the Somali security forces. The FGS requested support from the United Nations to develop a comprehensive WAM system, to ensure the safe and transparent management of weapons and ammunition from reception, to distribution, to verification, in compliance with international standards and sanction obligations. During 2015 UNMAS supported the National Security Advisor in developing a framework project, and securing funding through the UK for this to be implemented in 2016.
UNMAS supported SEMA to elaborate the “Badbaado” or “protection” plan: a two year initiative to survey and clear explosive hazard across Somalia. Funding is now sought to implement the plan, and the Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action is available as a funding mechanism. During 2015 UNMAS and its partner, The HALO Trust, began a project to survey areas contaminated by landmines, explosive remnants of war, and abandoned ammunition along the Somali-Ethiopian border. The pilot project addresses explosive hazard contamination, demonstrates that work is possible in South-Central Somalia, and provides employment opportunities for Somalis impacted by conflict.
UNMAS is supported by the UNSOS assessed budget, UNSOM regular budget, and bilaterally through the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for mine action (VTF). UNMAS will soon seek funding for further development of the Police EOD/IED defeat plan, and encourages the international community to support the Badbaado plan.
Updated February 2016