On Monday (30 July), the Security Council is set to adopt a resolution reauthorising the deployment of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) until 31 May 2019. According to the resolution, the troop level will be reduced to 20,626 by 28 February 2019, and the mission will have a minimum of 1,040 police personnel.
The Council adopted resolution 2415 only 10 weeks ago, on 15 May, extending the mandate of AMISOM until 31 July in a “technical rollover”. This was done in order to allow for the consideration of an AU-UN joint comprehensive assessment of AMISOM, which the Council only received earlier this month. Resolution 2372 of 30 August 2017, which renewed AMISOM’S mandate until 31 May 2018, called for this assessment to be completed by 15 April, but it was delayed.
The main source of contention during negotiations on the current draft concerned the anticipated troop reductions that had been initiated last year. In resolution 2372, the Council decided to reduce the number of uniformed AMISOM personnel in two phases: in the first phase, to a maximum level of 21,626 troops (a reduction of 500 from the previous authorisation) by 31 December 2017, a drawdown that has taken place; and in the second phase, to a maximum level of 20,626 (a drawdown of a further 1,000 troops) to be carried out by 30 October 2018, unless the Council decides to “accelerate the pace of the reduction, taking into account the capabilities of the Somali security forces thus far”.
In the negotiations on the current draft, disagreement centred on the date of the second phase of the drawdown mandated by resolution 2372. On the one hand, France and the US took the view that the drawdown should go ahead as planned, in accordance with what was already agreed by the Council in resolution 2372 and which these two members had pushed for at the time. On the other hand, the majority of Council members supported postponing the planned drawdown to 28 February 2019. Their views were supported by the findings of the joint comprehensive assessment.
This assessment echoed the views previously expressed by the AMISOM troop contributing countries (TCCs), namely that Somali security forces have deficiencies in capacity and in command and control. This was demonstrated by the problematic implementation of the Somali-owned “Mogadishu stabilization plan”, during which Somalia suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history, on 14 October 2017 in Mogadishu, which claimed over 500 lives and left many more injured. That attack was followed by other deadly attacks by Al-Shabaab on civilian and military targets in Mogadishu and other parts of the country. The assessment concluded that a premature handover would be risky and that the continued presence of AMISOM is necessary during the transition, as Somalia builds the capability of its security forces and institutions and prepares for elections in 2020-2021. These conclusions coincide with the Council-mandated operational readiness report on Somali security forces conducted in December 2017, which found that Somali forces were very limited in their capacity to take over security responsibilities.
The Secretary-General recommended that the October drawdown be postponed to February 2019. This would allow for a joint AU-UN operational readiness assessment of the capacities and readiness of AMISOM—as well as the findings of the joint comprehensive assessment of AMISOM described in the Secretary-General's letter to the Council earlier this month (S/2018/674)—to feed into the development of a revised concept of operations for AMISOM. The AU intends to develop this concept of operations by 1 November.
In addition to the concerns noted in the joint assessment, members supporting the slower drawdown also referred to the expected completion by the end of this year of the detailed planning of the first phase of the transition plan for the security forces adopted by Somalia.
Eventually, in light of the strong views of other Council members, France and the US agreed to the postponement of the 1,000-troop drawdown. Nevertheless, as an apparent compromise, language was inserted in the final draft stating that the Council regrets the need for the postponement and stressing that there should be no further delay in the reduction of the level of uniformed AMISOM personnel beyond 28 February 2019. In addition, the first written report on AMISOM, due by 15 November, is now to include a “reconfiguration plan detailing the modalities of the reduction in the level of uniformed personnel”.
As suggested by the Secretary-General, the draft in blue requests a joint AU-UN operational readiness assessment of AMISOM to be completed by 15 September, to identify the capacity required of AMISOM to support the Somali transition plan within the troop ceiling. This is to feed into the revised AMISOM concept of operations, which is to provide for target dates for the progressive transfer of responsibilities from AMISOM to Somalia.
The text further welcomes the intention of the Secretary-General to conduct a technical assessment of AMISOM by 31 January 2019 to review AMISOM’s reconfiguration, including the implementation of the troop reductions.
Another point of disagreement during the negotiations was Ethiopia’s position that AMISOM should be given a political mandate, on top of its security mandate, similar to that of a UN peacekeeping mission. This received pushback from several Council members, who maintained that it would be unnecessary, given the political mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). Furthermore, members were reluctant to expand the tasks of AMISOM, which might require additional funding and would take place just as AMISOM undergoes a drawdown phase. Ethiopia argued that this mandate would not require any additional resources from AMISOM. In the end, the resolution in blue does not grant AMISOM a political mandate.
The Netherlands advocated including in the text language recognising the adverse effect of climate change, ecological changes and natural disasters, among other factors, on stability in Somalia. Notwithstanding the position of some members that Council engagement on this issue encroaches on the prerogatives of other UN organs, the final resolution included this language, while also emphasising the need for adequate risk assessment and risk management strategies in this regard by governments and the UN.
Also on Monday, the chair of the 751/1907 Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Kairat Umarov (Kazakhstan), will brief the Council on the work of the Committee, followed by consultations. Umarov will update the Council on his observations following his 4-10 May visit to Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, during which he was accompanied by representatives from Ethiopia, Kuwait, the Netherlands and Sweden. The delegation was unable to visit Eritrea.
An encouraging development occurred on 8 July, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki met in Asmara and signed a peace agreement, ending a 20-year conflict. They restored diplomatic relations and agreed to open embassies, resume flight services and for Ethiopia to use port facilities in Eritrea. In a visit to Ethiopia the following day, the Secretary-General said that this could lead to the removal of UN sanctions on Eritrea.
On 23 July, Ambassador Tekeda Alemu (Ethiopia) updated Council members on the recent developments under “any other business”. It seems that Ethiopia is now pushing to have sanctions lifted on Eritrea. Council members have started discussing the issue to determine under what conditions sanctions could be lifted.