Dispatches from the Field: UN Security Council Visiting Mission to the AU
Addis Ababa –Yesterday (22 October) Security Council members held their 13th joint annual consultative meeting with the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC). The day before (21 October), Council members held informal consultations with the PSC, which have been organised since 2016 for greater interaction, particularly on more controversial subjects. While in Addis Ababa, they also had a series of other meetings, including with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed. Members arrived in Addis Sunday night (20 October), coming from South Sudan following a day-long mission to push for implementation of the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS).
Morning Meetings on 21 October
The mission to Addis started with briefings at the UN Office to the AU (UNOAU) from Special Representative and head of the UNOAU, Hanna Tetteh, and the Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga. Members were informed about the UNOAU’s collaboration with AU member states, the AU Commission and the PSC, in line with the 2017 UN-AU framework agreement for enhanced partnership.
The meeting also provided an opportunity to talk over country situations in the region, especially South Sudan, following the Council visit that left members quite concerned about the risks of renewed conflict. In discussing efforts within the region, it was mentioned that the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) played an important role in facilitating the R-ARCSS in 2018, but has been less engaged this year. Plans are however underway for an IGAD meeting on South Sudan, in light of the approaching 12 November deadline for forming a transitional government of national unity.
The Security Council delegation then met with AU Chairperson Moussa Faki at the AU Commission. Other AU officials attending the session included AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaïl Cherqui and the Head of the AU Permanent Observer mission to the UN, Fatima Kyari Mohammed. Faki affirmed that momentum for the AU-UN partnership had never been stronger and spoke about the four agenda items for the upcoming joint consultative meeting: South Sudan, the Sahel, the Central African Republic (CAR), and Libya. On South Sudan, which again figured prominently, Faki was interested in hearing about the Council’s recent visit. Several members noted that the Council and the AU should work together in the coming weeks to avert a crisis.
The AU call for a joint AU-UN Special Envoy for Libya was another prominent topic. The AU High-Level Committee on Libya had proposed appointing a joint envoy in July. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) endorsed the decision during its 14 September summit on terrorism in Ouagadougou, and the PSC called on the Security Council to support the proposal at a 27 September ministerial-level meeting on Libya.
The proposal for a joint AU-UN Special Envoy for Libya appears to lack sufficient support among UN Security Council members, a number of whom prefer to retain the current UN-supported political process. Speaking about the proposal, Faki underscored that Libya has been deteriorating for eight years despite UN efforts, while Africa is being destabilised by the proliferation of arms from Libya—which are regularly brought into Libya in violation of the arms embargo—and terrorist groups in the country. The AU and UN should work together, according to Faki.
In the afternoon, the Council delegation held informal consultations with the PSC at the AU headquarters. The meeting began with statements by Ambassador Robert Y. Lormia (Liberia), the Chairperson of the PSC this month, and Ambassador Jerry Matjila (South Africa), the President of the Security Council forOctober. Chergui and Tetteh also delivered introductory remarks.
The first agenda item was the AU’s “Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020” initiative, which was introduced by Sierra Leone and Rwanda. They presented the ways that the AU has been mobilising member states, regional economic communities, the UN, civil society and other partners to end conflicts in Africa. Equatorial Guinea and Peru delivered presentations on behalf of the Security Council, which included recalling the Council’s adoption of resolution 2457 in February that welcomed the Silencing the Guns initiative and the AU’s Master Roadmap on practical steps to attain the goal of a conflict-free Africa.
The second topic of the informal meeting was the modalities for joint field missions of the two Councils. Since 2015, members of Security Council and the PSC have used the communiqué issued following the consultative meeting to express their intention to consider joint visits to conflict situations in Africa. To date, however, these joint missions have not occurred. On several occasions, the Security Council has sent an invitation to the PSC chairperson to join planned missions. But the PSC has not accepted the offer since its position is that visits should include the two Councils, with all 15 members of each body represented.
One concern of Security Council members, expressed at the meeting, is the practical logistics of having such large delegations. The PSC contended that this would not be an impediment, as it has undertaken joint missions with the EU Political and Security Committee with its 27 member states to Mali in 2014 and the CAR in 2017. The PSC also tried to allay concerns over the issue of resources, underscoring that each Council would fund its costs.
The discussion sought to identify formulas that might make it possible to finally undertake joint visits. Kenya and Nigeria presented the PSC position, highlighting their potential value for developing a common understanding of situations and agreed responses. Côte d’Ivoire spoke first among the Security Council members, presenting three options that the A3 (the three African members of the Council) have developed and recently shared in a letter to the PSC: (1) smaller missions with representatives of the Councils; (2) inviting PSC members to join sanctions committee field visits; and (3) missions of the entire Councils. It suggested possible formulas for smaller missions that would include five members from each body.
During the discussion, it was proposed that the Councils could begin with small representative missions, while a working group could be set up to study possible formulas and the feasibility of full Council visits. This role could also be designated to the Security Council’s Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions or the ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa while attaching a deadline for completing the review to give it greater urgency. However, with members not prepared to shift from their positions, it was decided that further study by the Councils’ experts would be required.
Joint Consultative Meeting and Meeting with Prime Minister Abiy
The next day (22 October) members of the Security Council held their 13th joint consultative meeting with the AU PSC. Ambassadors Lormia and Matjila, and Chergui and Tetteh again made opening remarks.
Members of the Security Council and the AU PSC proceeded to discuss South Sudan. It seems that everyone shared a sense of urgency over the situation with less than three weeks remaining before the 12 November deadline, maintaining that the parties should compromise to form the transitional government of national unity by that date. The Councils would need to remain engaged, and there were apparently some references to using sanctions against spoilers. Press elements were proposed, but it seems that because the draft statement was more detailed than typical press elements, some members were not prepared to agree to them.
The second agenda item was the Sahel. This was another area of convergence. Members of the two bodies expressed their concern over the deteriorating situation, and the need to support security initiatives in the region such as the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the G5 Sahel joint force, and the Multinational Joint Task Force. It seems members also noted the need to tackle structural problems such as underdevelopment, poor governance and climate change that contribute to the Sahel region’s instability.
On Libya, the main issue was the proposal for a joint AU-UN envoy. It seems that PSC members underscored that the UN and AU need greater cooperation on Libya. Echoing Faki’s presentation, the PSC stressed how the proliferation of arms and the spread of terrorist groups from Libya has begun to have a continent-wide effect that has gone beyond the neighbouring Sahel region. Council members anticipated that the subject could generate more debate, but it seems the PSC limited itself to stating its position, while few Council members expressed their objections.
The final agenda item was the CAR. The discussion was apparently positive about the trajectory of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation reached in February, though the situation remains fragile. The joint visit in April to the CAR by Chergui and UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix was cited as a good example of enhanced AU-UN partnership. It seems that some members called for further amendments or the lifting of the arms embargo against government security forces, following the Council’s easing of measures on the government in resolution 2488 in September.
Under “any other business” (AOB), Guinea-Bissau was discussed, with members of both bodies sharing concerns over the political situation ahead of the 24 November presidential election. It seems that Equatorial Guinea, which requested the AOB, informed members about a visiting mission this week by the chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Guinea-Bissau configuration, Ambassador Mauro Vieira (Brazil). In addition, as chair of the 2048 Guinea-Bissau sanctions committee, the permanent representative of Equatorial Guinea also said that he would travel to the country later this month. The PSC said that it would be meeting on Guinea-Bissau in the coming days, and may send a mission there before the election. Members recognised the importance of maintaining cooperation and supporting ECOWAS’ efforts.
In between the morning and afternoon sessions of the consultative meeting, Security Council members met with Prime Minister Abiy, who was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for leading domestic reforms, normalising Ethiopia’s relations with Eritrea and helping to facilitate the agreement for a transitional period in Sudan. The meeting focused on South Sudan, as members heard Abiy’s perspective on the situation.
Looking ahead, negotiations will continue on the joint communiqué, which had not been agreed by the time of the joint consultative meeting. Before the Council visit, it seemed that the main differences were in connection with the joint envoy proposal for Libya and language about the EU’s Operation Sofia.