Informal Interactive Dialogue on AU Mission in Somalia
On Monday (8 June), Council members are scheduled to hold an informal interactive dialogue on the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Malaysia, Council president for June, will host the meeting. The participants are expected to include Maman Sidikou, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and head of AMISOM, Nicholas Kay, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), and a representative of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), most likely Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke. The meeting will serve two main purposes: providing an opportunity for Sidikou and Council members to have a frank discussion (while he has briefed the Council in public sessions, as a non-UN official, he cannot participate in consultations); and presenting the findings and recommendations of a forthcoming AU-UN report on AMISOM.
The Council requested the joint AU-UN report in resolution 2182, which reauthorised AMISOM’s deployment until 30 November 2015. More specifically, the Council requested the Secretary-General to continuously review benchmarks for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation in close consultation with the AU; and it further requested a joint AU-UN report by 30 May assessing the impact of the surge in AMISOM uniformed personnel first authorised in resolution 2124 and outlining options for next steps in the military campaign. A joint assessment mission was conducted in Somalia from 14-25 April. While the report has apparently been drafted, it seems that its release has been delayed for a month due to ongoing consultations with AMISOM’s troop contributing countries regarding the report’s recommendations.
When Kay and Sidikou briefed the Council via video teleconference from Addis Ababa on 19 May, the latter provided a preview of the AU-UN report. Regarding benchmarks for the deployment of UN peacekeepers, Sidikou stated that the assessment mission found that conditions would not be suitable until the end of 2016 at the earliest. With respect to AMISOM’s troop surge, Sidikou said the report recommended a “structured, targeted reconfiguration” of AMISOM to respond to evolving conflict dynamics through resuming offensive operations against Al-Shabaab under an enhanced chain of command and with better use of assets such as helicopters; consolidating and stabilising recovered areas through better policing, and establishing a joint AMISOM/UNSOM civilian presence; and securing supply routes to facilitate the delivery of public services and humanitarian assistance. Council members may use the meeting on Monday to ask about the anticipated geographic scope of AMISOM’s future operations. Al-Shabaab has been active in Puntland, a semi-autonomous northern region, which on 12 April committed 3,000 troops to the Somali National Army (SNA) but is outside AMISOM’s six current south and central sectors. Council members could also be interested in clarification from Kay and Sidikou regarding what changes in the respective mandates of UNSOM and AMISOM may be required in order to enable a joint civilian presence. Plans for countering Al-Shabaab’s asymmetrical, terrorist threat, including with respect to UNSOM staff security (e.g. potentially expanding the UN guard unit), are also likely to be discussed.
During the 19 May briefing, Sidikou stated that progress toward these goals would be contingent upon sufficient political and economic backing for implementation: better support to Somalia’s security forces to implement the Guulwade (Victory) Plan of the FGS; an improved logistical support package for AMISOM; and necessary financing for expanded deployments by AMISOM police and the national police (and eventually the creation of regional administration police). On Monday, Council members may ask Sidikou and Kay for their respective assessments regarding the effectiveness of the UN Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA) in providing logistical support, and whether the current institutional configuration is likely to be adequate to sustain the next military offensive. AMISOM’s need for further “enablers”, particularly helicopters facilitating greater flexibility and mobility, is another long-standing issue where Sidikou and Kay may be able to convey potential solutions proposed by the forthcoming AU-UN report. Finally, Council members could also enquire regarding sequencing and timeframes, including a projected transition from military offensives to expanded policing.
It is also anticipated that Council members may raise human rights issues, including allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by AMISOM troops of Somali women and girls who live in IDP camps. Although the issue of sexual exploitation has been reported on generally since 2012 by the Monitoring Group that assists the 751/1907 Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee, the issue gained prominence following a Human Rights Watch report released in September 2014 that described AMISOM troops using a range of tactics, including humanitarian aid, to coerce vulnerable women and girls into sexual activity. At the request of the US, Council members were briefed on this particular issue under “any other business” on 12 May. It was also addressed on 19 May by Sidikou who spoke about the AU investigation into the allegations contained in the Human Rights Watch report. Council members will likely be interested to hear from Sidikou what progress has been made by AMISOM to enforce its zero-tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse. Council members may also be interested to hear from Kay what UNSOM, in fulfilling its mandate for capacity building and human rights monitoring and reporting, has done to address the wider context of sexual and gender based violence in Somalia, including whether victims’ access to justice has improved. Similar questions may be addressed to Somali Prime Minister Sharmarke, particularly in relation to human rights violations by the SNA.