posted on Tue 8 Oct 2013 8:02 PM
Dispatches from the Field: Meeting Between Members of the UN Security Council and AU Peace and Security Council

ADDIS ABABA: Members of the UN Security Council held their seventh annual consultative meeting with members of the AU Peace and Security Council today (8 October) at AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa. Council members also met with AU Chair Nkoszana Dlamini Zuma and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

The consultative meeting with the AU PSC went smoothly as did the adoption of a joint communiqué. The communiqué underscored the partnership between the two organs, particularly in conflict areas of Africa such as in the Great Lakes Region, Sudan and South Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic (CAR) and the Sahel region. The mood was quite different than it was in 2011, the last time the consultative meeting was held in Addis Ababa. In 2011 the meeting had been very fractious due to the Council-authorised intervention in Libya and unhappiness from the AU that its preferred diplomatic approach to the situation had been largely sidelined by the Security Council.

Yesterday (7 October) members resolved the two outstanding issues on the draft joint communiqué, which was largely negotiated in New York. Regarding the situation in Abyei some Security Council members wanted language on the right for Abyei residents to determine their political future and the right to access migratory populations. In the final communiqué, in the face of opposition from other members as well as the AU, it seems this language was dropped, as there remained strong sensitivities regarding the term “residency” and how it relates to eligibility in an Abyei referendum.

The second issue was over calling on countries not to assist or provide support of any kind to armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). However, Rwanda was opposed to such language and the final communiqué used a more general reference calling on all countries in the region to fully implement their commitments under the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSC Framework) in dealing with armed groups.

There was a last-minute, but uncontroversial, inclusion by Uganda before the joint communiqué was agreed: the addition of the ADF-NALU to the list of destabilising armed groups operating in eastern DRC which already included the M23 and the FDLR.

During interventions, the US expressed concern that the DRC was under great pressure to grant blanket amnesty to M23 rebels seeking reintegration to the DRC armed forces. It also seems Nigeria brought up the need for enhanced UN support for the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Zuma, the chair of the AU, requested a meeting with Council members following their consultative meeting with the AU PSC. (The meeting had not been previously scheduled.) It seems Zuma requested the meeting in order to communicate the views of AU member states on the ICC and the preponderance of African situations on the Court’s docket–in particular Kenya.

While Council members are aware that there is a perception that the Court targets African nations, they also clarified during the meeting that of the eight situations in front of the ICC only two had been referred by the Security Council (Libya and Sudan) and four (CAR, DRC, Mali and Uganda) had been self-referred. In the case of Kenya, the Office of the Prosecutor decided in 2009 to commence its own investigation under Article 15 of the Rome Statute of the ICC into the 2007 post-election violence, marking the first time an ICC investigation was launched without a referral from a state that is party to the Rome Statute or from the Security Council. In March 2010 the Court decided that there was a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation and that the situation appeared to fall within the jurisdiction of the Court. (Although Kenya has challenged the admissibility of the case, the Court has upheld its March 2010 decision. Kenya has pursued this issue with renewed energy following the recent election in Kenya as both President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and Deputy President William Samoei Ruto face trial before the ICC on charges of committing crimes against humanity during the 2007-2008 post-election violence.)

It seems Zuma indicated to Council members that a possible outcome from the 11-12 October Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU on the ICC might be a request to the Security Council to consider an Article 16 deferral of the Kenyan situation. (Article 16 of the Rome Statute allows the Council to defer a case for one year through the adoption of a Chapter VII resolution. Such a decision would generally be taken in the face of a threat to international peace and security. It seems Kenya has argued that the recent Westgate terrorist attack in Nairobi constitutes such a threat and that Kenyan leadership needs to be focused on interior security issues and not the trial in The Hague.)

It was unclear if Council members would find such an argument persuasive enough to set a precedent and grant a deferral. Furthermore, some Council members have concerns that such a deferral might well work against the cause of justice as there have been reports of witness tampering in the Kenya case which may be exacerbated if such a deferral were granted.

Council members expressed a willingness to consider a request from the AU, but cautioned that they had already considered such requests on two earlier occasions, with no agreement, and there was no reason to think there would be a different conclusion the third time around. They also underlined that there was no common approach among Council members to the ICC generally, let alone to the specificity of an Article 16 deferral. There was a suggestion to the AU that perhaps a better avenue to pursue the ICC issue would be with the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute that meets in November.

Before departing back to New York, Council members met with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. It seems appreciation was expressed for Ethiopia’s contributions to peacekeeping and there was an exchange of views on the necessity to quickly hold the Abyei referendum. However, the substance of the meeting was a call for the Security Council to more consistently consider the views of the AU and subregional organisations when considering how to respond to African crises. Council members expressed their desire to strengthen such partnerships and take those voices into account more consistently. However, they also underlined that as the primary body responsible for international peace and security, for such regional and subregional voices to influence Council action, the messages needed to be quick and unified.

Azerbaijan, one of the co-leads on the Addis Ababa leg of the mission due to its October presidency, said in a press conference following the meeting that the Council’s visit was a timely follow-up to the Kampala talks and implementation of the PSC Framework and welcomed the joint effort with the AU to bring stability to Africa.

The Council will hold a briefing on this visiting mission on 21 October when the leads of the various legs are expected to provide an assessment of the trip.

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