posted on Thu 28 May 2020 11:06 AM
African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Reauthorisation

Tomorrow (29 May) the Security Council is expected to reauthorise the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) until 28 February 2021.  Under an agreement reached on 27 March (S/2020/253), due to the COVID-19 virus, the Council will vote through written voting procedures. At the time of writing, members are submitting their votes to the Security Council Affairs Division, and it is anticipated that the Council president, Estonia, will read out the results tomorrow.

The first draft of the text was circulated by the UK, penholder on Somalia, on 18 May. Negotiations, conducted virtually, were held on 20 and 25 May. An open videoconference (VTC) was held on 21 May on the situation in Somalia during which some Council members expressed their views on AMISOM and Somalia. France underlined the EU’s support for AMISOM, while also saying that the current funding model is not sustainable. Germany observed that the EU contribution to AMISOM since 2007 has been over $2 billion. Belgium said that a shorter mandate period would be preferred so that the Council can adjust its approach to AMISOM, if necessary, well in advance of the mission’s transition of all if its responsibilities to the host government in 2021. The US noted with concern that Somalia’s security transition plan—the roadmap adopted in 2018 that laid out the steps for Somalia to assume full responsibility for its own stability—remains behind schedule and urged that its implementation be accelerated. With a properly calibrated reauthorisation, the US maintained, the Council could send a strong message to the region that transitioning security responsibilities to federal government forces remains a priority.

At the same meeting, South Africa (also speaking on behalf of Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) and Russia explicitly called for the reauthorisation to be for 12 months. South Africa said that a 12-month timeframe would provide space for an assessment of the impact of COVID-19, for elections to be held, and for the creation of national force generation plans. Russia said that authorising any decrease in peacekeepers during this time would be unacceptable.

Council members continue to agree that AMISOM plays a critical role. However, negotiations proved difficult in respect of how to prepare for the future. At the crux of this discussion were two questions. First, is it more prudent to allow Somalia additional time to consolidate its security gains and hold elections before the Council reconsiders its approach to AMISOM’s authorisation? Second, should AMISOM begin transitioning its responsibilities to the Somali National Army (SNA) more rapidly, given financial constraints on the mission?

Some members, such at the A3 (Niger, South Africa and Tunisia) and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, believe that the uncertain impact of COVID-19 and the upcoming elections mean that the reauthorisation should simply be a rollover of AMISOM’s duties for an additional 12 months. While they praise the actions of the SNA, they do not believe the SNA is ready at present to take over more of AMISOM’s responsibilities. Some Council members supported the A3/AU position, as they felt that the views of the region should be respected. They also believed that a longer mandate could give Somalia a better chance to achieve critical milestones allowing for peace consolidation and avoiding a security vacuum when AMISOM does leave.

Since joining the Council in 2019, South Africa has been one of the strongest proponents of maintaining AMISOM as is. During the negotiation on the May 2019 AMISOM resolution, South Africa, on behalf of the A3, asserted that any drawdown would be a threat to Somalia, as a weakening of security provisions could ultimately undo the progress achieved.

Other members, unlike the A3, would have initially preferred the mandate to be renewed only until 31 December 2020. They believed that this would allow sufficient time to prepare for AMISOM’s future withdrawal and for planning a successful transition of its responsibilities to Somali security forces. It would also be in line with EU discussions planned for December to review its financial commitment to AMISOM. Ultimately the UK proposed a compromise with the authorisation ending on 28 February 2021 (that is, a reauthorisation for nine months). Perhaps to stress the concerns that some members have about Somalia’s readiness, language has been added to the text highlighting the pressing need to strengthen Somalia’s security institutions by the 2021 deadline to transfer all security responsibilities to the SNA, as well as the need for a coordinated approach from all stakeholders—the AU, the UN, the Federal Government of Somalia, and the region—with regard to political and security reforms in Somalia.

There were also deliberations during negotiations on language around gender. Currently, there are references to gender throughout the AMISOM authorisation. This year, two permanent members wanted to consolidate all gendered language in one paragraph, with no references elsewhere in the resolution. This was strongly opposed by most other members, and the text maintains last year’s approach.

Language was also added this year on COVID-19.  It calls for additional support from donors for the humanitarian response to the virus in Somalia. Language on climate change was a sticking point this year, as it was in the AMISOM negotiations in May 2019. Several Council members supported additional climate and security language proposed this year. However, it seems that eventually members agreed to keep the language that was inserted last year. In generally, China, Russia and the US have been sceptical of climate change and security language in Council products.  The US, in particular, has maintained that the Council should focus on how to respond to the impact of specific incidents of drought or desertification, instead of mentioning climate change as a potential cause of such incidents.