posted on Fri 8 Sep 2017 6:19 PM
Dispatches from the Field: 11th AU-UN Annual Joint Consultative Meeting

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (8 September 2017): This morning (8 September), members of the Security Council held their 11th joint consultative meeting with the AU Peace and Security Council (AU PSC). The meeting started with statements by AU PSC chairperson, Ambassador Mamosadinyana Molefe (Botswana), and President of the Security Council, Ambassador Tekeda Alemu (Ethiopia). The AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, and UN Special Representative to the AU, Haile Menkerios, also made opening remarks.

In their comments, all four speakers referred to the significant challenges to peace and security in Africa, stressing that this made it all the more essential that the two Councils work closely together. Molefe highlighted the impact of conflict on women, who are often left out of conflict resolution processes. She noted that the AU Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, Bineta Diop, in July had been part of a joint mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria with Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed; Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; and the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten.

Alemu expressed the hope that the consultations would over time become more effective. Referring to the informal meeting held yesterday, he said that there were practical measures that the two Councils could explore for further collaboration, including harmonising work programmes and joint field missions.

Chergui noted that long term efforts were needed to address the root causes of conflict, while stakeholders needed help in overcoming obstacles. He then went on to highlight some of the key issues in Somalia, South Sudan, and Lake Chad Basin, the three matters of shared concern that were covered during the meeting. He said that the recent Framework Agreement for enhanced partnership in peace and security, which was signed by the AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat and UN Secretary-General António Guterres in April, was a strategic step that could provide a further boost to joint AU-UN relations.

In his remarks, Menkerios said that yesterday’s informal discussions illustrated the progress made in the relationship between the two Councils. He noted that there were suggestions in the informal meeting for how to make the relationship more effective, including conducting joint field missions and making the respective Special Envoys available for briefings to both Councils. He also mentioned the Framework Agreement and noted that the two organisations needed each other to be effective. Menkerios then talked about the crucial role the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) had played in advancing peace and security in Somalia and said that while the AU-UN review recognised the need for a strategic shift to Somali security forces, there needed to be careful planning between the two organisations. Regarding South Sudan, he talked about the lack of implementation of the peace agreement and efforts of the AU and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in revitalising the August 2015 peace agreement. He added that a national dialogue process was not a substitute for a peace agreement. He expressed concern about calls for elections next year, stressing that they can only be held in a stable security environment. Turning to the Lake Chad Basin, Menkerios acknowledged the contributions of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) and encouraged the AU and the UN to use their leverage to ensure the MNJTF has adequate funding.

Following the opening remarks, the members of the Security Council and the AU PSC went on to discuss Somalia. It seems there was some convergence of views among members of both Councils on recent progress in Somalia, including the elections and the peaceful transfer of power. The UK and Italy spoke on behalf of the Security Council. In its remarks, the UK stressed that although there had been progress, serious challenges remained such as Al-Shabaab, which continues to pose a serious threat to Somalia. Other areas covered by the UK included the importance of the Somali government and Federal Member States adhering to commitments regarding security, political reform, and development made during the London Somalia Conference in May, and the need for sustainable, predictable funding to be done in tandem with improvements in accountability and oversight and command and control. Italy talked about how the terrorist threat in Somalia is now a cross-regional threat requiring multi-faceted action. In addition, Italy said that addressing the root causes of terrorism, human rights and development were all important to the stabilisation of the country, as was the development of a strong national police.

Egypt (currently a member of both the Security Council and the AU PSC) and Kenya responded on Somalia for the AU PSC, following which a number of troop and police-contributing countries in AMISOM, including Burundi and Uganda, spoke, as well as Chergui. It seems that the AU PSC members expressed strong views about the critical role AMISOM had played in advancing peace and security in Somalia and that more support was needed to ensure that it would be able to continue to protect the fragile stability. AU members spoke passionately about AMISOM troops who have died in the line of duty. Security Council members and the AU PSC appear to be in general agreement that AMISOM is important to the stability and security of Somalia and that the Somali security forces need to be ready to take on security responsibilities for the country before AMISOM leaves. There are however some differences over what is needed to get to this point, with some Security Council members appearing to have a different view from some AU members on what sort of UN support is needed in order to build the capacity of Somali national forces.

There was also a convergence over aspects of the situation in South Sudan. Nigeria and Rwanda briefed on behalf of the AU PSC, while the US, the penholder on South Sudan, and Ethiopia made remarks for the Security Council. Members of both Councils were in general agreement that the August 2015 peace agreement needed to be implemented and that the elections should not take place before the peace agreement was implemented. They were supportive of IGAD’s efforts to revitalise the peace process. However, there was concern expressed by members of both Councils over the gravity of the humanitarian situation and the need for the two Councils to make serious efforts to improve this.

In its remarks, the US spoke about how, in spite of promises from South Sudan’s leaders, little has changed and that the parties need to be held accountable. It expressed support for the revitalisation process but stressed that it was the last chance for salvaging the peace agreement. The US also suggested that if things did not change, further targeted sanctions and an arms embargo may be needed in order to get the parties to change their behaviour. Russia, however, made clear that it did not think this would be particularly effective, as there were plenty of illegal arms in South Sudan already. The importance of accountability and the hybrid court in South Sudan was also raised by Security Council members. AU PSC members spoke about the IGAD peace agreement revitalisation initiative and there was general agreement that, as an organisation made up of countries from the east Africa region, IGAD was well placed to lead this process and that all parties needed to be committed to the process.

The final agenda item of the meeting was the Lake Chad Basin, where Senegal and the UK spoke on behalf of the Council with Niger and Chad representing the AU PSC. It seems that Senegal provided a detailed account of how this issue had been neglected for a long time, in spite of the fact that Boko Haram has been active in the area for several years. The 2-7 March visiting mission and the resolution adopted on the Lake Chad Basin on 31 March (S/RES/2349) have helped to focus the Council’s attention on this region. Among other things, Senegal stressed that the challenges in the Lake Chad Basin were multi-faceted and included the type of conflict arising from problems related to climate change. He pointed out that that the countries of the region have taken the lead to fight Boko Haram with modest means and needed the support of the international community. There was general support expressed for the MNJTF, but mixed views in terms of what sort of financial support should be provided by the UN. The UK spoke about how women and children were severely affected by the Boko Haram conflict in the Lake Chad Basin and that there were problems reintegrating them into the community as a result of the stigma of being associated with Boko Haram. One point highlighted by Italy was the link between terrorism, criminal activity and issues like trafficking of persons.

The joint consultative meeting ended with a press conference by the co-chairs who conveyed the key messages that had emerged from the discussions over the last two days. The co-chairs highlighted the areas of convergence on Somalia and South Sudan but were also frank in describing some of the differences. The questions from the press centred on South Sudan and the likelihood of the IGAD’s peace agreement revitalisation initiative succeeding; Somalia and financing for AMISOM; and how the UN and AU were planning to work together to fight terrorism.

In reflecting on the meetings over the three day visit, a number of Security Council members felt that there had been good discussions, particularly on Somalia and South Sudan. They noted that the discussions had been frank, and even though there were areas where it was clear that the Security Council was not united, there was a sense that it was good for the AU PSC members to see for themselves the positions of different Council members on these issues. Although it was clear that at least one member was strongly opposed to financing of AU-operations from assessed contributions, there was a sense from a number of members that the AU PSC’s clear message about the need for predictable, sustainable funding, particularly for AMISOM, might motivate some members to pursue further discussion of this issue.

“Looking ahead, Ambassador Alemu will brief the Council on Tuesday on the visiting mission to the AU. Negotiations are also expected to continue on the joint communiqué which had not been agreed to by the time of the joint consultative meeting. it seems that there were some differences, particularly over language on the financing of AU missions and South Sudan, that needed to be resolved.