Council Meeting on Somalia
Tomorrow afternoon (11 January) the Council is scheduled to hold an open meeting on Somalia chaired by South Africa’s Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe, and AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra, will brief. Countries from the region, including troop-contributing countries (TCCs) to the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have also requested to speak under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.
Current TCCs include Burundi, Djibouti and Uganda, but it was unclear whether all of them would speak. It is possible that Ethiopia and Kenya will also participate. A press statement is currently being negotiated which might highlight some of the key recent political issues.
This meeting appears to have been scheduled in response to a direct request from the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC). Following its meeting on 22 December 2011, the AU PSC requested South Africa, as the incoming President of the Council for January 2012, to include Somalia in the month’s program of work.
At the meeting tomorrow, Lamamra is expected to brief the Council on the new strategic concept endorsed by the AU PSC on 5 January and is also likely to call on the Council to support its implementation. (In a communiqu é following its 5 January meeting, the AU PSC urged the Council “to expeditiously consider and authorise the support required for immediate implementation of the strategic concept”.)
In particular, the proposed increase in AMISOM’s authorised level of uniformed personnel from 12,000 to 17,731 troops (which would allow for the re-hatting of Kenyan troops and deployment of additional troops from Burundi, Djibouti and Uganda) will require explicit Council authorisation.
Other elements of the strategic concept that are likely to be of interest to Council members include the agreement to deploy AMISOM troops to areas outside of Mogadishu (including those “liberated with the support of Ethiopia”) and the provision of force enablers and multipliers as well as logistical support to AMISOM. The Council may also wish to hear more about the AU’s plans to strengthen the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and “allied” forces to enable them to play a greater role.
A key aspect which is likely to be part of the Council’s discussion of the strategic concept is the need for adequate resources for an expanded mission. In his latest report on Somalia (S/2011/759), the Secretary-General indicated that he wanted to engage the Council in discussions on the possible inclusion of reimbursement of contingent-owned equipment and the provision of force multipliers (such as helicopter units, transport and engineering capabilities) in the UN support package for AMISOM and that he would be presenting options to the Council once the strategic concept was finalised. It seems
Council members are now expecting a report from the Secretary-General containing options for UN support to AMISOM by the end of January.
Council members seem cautious about stating their positions until they have seen the Secretary-General’s proposals on the options and its financial implications. Tomorrow’s meeting is therefore seen as the start of a longer review process and adoption of a resolution is not expected until February. (The UK conference on Somalia scheduled for 23 February may also impact the timing.)
While there appears to be a greater willingness than before to consider expanding the use of UN assessed contributions to support AMISOM, some Council members, in particular among the P5, still seem very cautious about any proposal that would significantly increase the financial burden on member states.
With regard to increasing AMISOM’s authorised troop level, Council members appear generally supportive, but some seem surprised by the size of the proposed increase (expecting something closer to 15,000 rather than 17,731) and concerned by the additional cost associated with a larger increase.
AMISOM is also likely to feature in Thursday’s summit-level thematic debate on the UN-AU partnership as an example of practical cooperation between the two organisations that offers some important lessons learned. Council members are currently negotiating a draft resolution expected to be adopted at the end of the debate, which may include provisions relevant to the AMISOM discussions.
Another separate but related issue which is currently on the Council’s table is a request presented in a 4 January letter (S/2012/4) from the Prime Minister of Somalia for the Council to adopt a resolution prohibiting UN member states from purchasing charcoal from Somalia. The objective would be to cut off an important source of revenue for Al-Shabaab and also prevent further environmental degradation caused by the charcoal trade. It seems Council members have yet to start discussions on how to respond to the request.