Vote on AU Mission in Somalia Authorisation*
This morning (31 March) at 11:30 am EST, the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution endorsing the decision by the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) to reconfigure the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) into the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS). The draft text authorises, for a period of one year, AU member states to deploy uniformed personnel in the country to carry out ATMIS’ mandated tasks.
Discussions on the future of the AU presence in Somalia among the AU, UN and the Somali government have been taking place since early 2021. While an 8 January 2021 assessment of the UN Secretary-General recommended a reconfiguration of AMISOM, a 30 May independent AU assessment of AU engagement in and with Somalia post-2021 recommended an AU-UN hybrid mission to be financed by UN assessed contributions. The AU felt that this approach would address, among other things, concerns about sustainable financing. The Somali federal government has repeatedly endorsed the option of a reconfigured AMISOM, as proposed by the UN, as being most consistent with its 2021 Somalia Transition Plan (STP), which outlines steps towards the gradual handover of security responsibilities from international forces to the government.
These disagreements have strained AU-Somali relations during 2021 and delayed the development of a joint proposal by the AU, the UN and the Somali federal government on future security arrangements in the country. In resolution 2568 of 12 March 2021, which authorised AMISOM’s operations until 31 December 2021, the Council had requested the submission of this proposal by September 2021. As the AU and Somalia were unable to reach an agreement on the future security arrangements by that time, the Council adopted resolution 2614 of 21 December 2021, which reauthorised AMISOM’s mandate without substantive changes for three months until 31 March, to allow more time for deliberations.
After the adoption of resolution 2614, significant progress was made in planning for the future AU presence in Somalia. Following a preliminary agreement in December 2021 between Somalia and the AU to reconfigure AMISOM, representatives of Somalia, the AU Commission and AMISOM held technical-level meetings between 17 and 21 January in Addis Ababa, which resulted in an outcome document outlining the parameters and strategic objectives for a new AU mission in Somalia called ATMIS. This document foresees the gradual handover of security responsibilities to Somali security forces by the end of 2023 in accordance with the STP. Subsequent consultations between 28 January and 9 February in the “Quartet” format (Somalia, the AU, the EU, and the UN) led to the drafting of a joint proposal on ATMIS’ strategic objectives, size, composition, and its associated logistical support package. In addition, the consultations resulted in the drafting of an updated concept of operations (CONOPS) for AMISOM, which the Council requested in resolution 2568. The joint proposal was submitted to the Security Council by the Secretary-General on 7 March. The CONOPS has yet to be officially submitted to the Security Council at the time of writing.
The UK, the penholder on Somalia, shared a first draft of the ATMIS authorisation on 22 March and convened one round of virtual negotiations on 25 March. Members submitted comments on the initial draft and the penholder circulated a second draft text on Tuesday (29 March). Although a vote on the draft resolution was originally scheduled for yesterday (30 March), it was postponed to today (31 March) to allow more time for negotiations. A third version of the text was placed under silence on Tuesday evening, until yesterday morning. India subsequently broke silence. The UK then placed an amended draft in blue yesterday afternoon.
The draft resolution in blue outlines ATMIS’s strategic objectives, based on the joint proposal. These are:
- conducting joint operations with Somali security forces to degrade Al-Shabaab and affiliates linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh);
- supporting Somali security forces by jointly providing protection for local communities and UN staff and supporting the implementation of the Somali National Stabilisation Strategy, among other things;
- assisting the Somali government in the implementation of stabilisation efforts for all areas recovered from Al-Shabaab;
- supporting the capacity development of the Somali security forces; and
- supporting Somali security forces in line with the STP, including by facilitating humanitarian liaison, community engagement as well as assistance with compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
It appears that due to the extensive consultations with several stakeholders on the future of the AU mission prior to the negotiations, ATMIS’ strategic objectives and core mandated tasks were not a source of disagreement during the negotiations. It seems that discussions mainly centred on language regarding counter-terrorism, including references to ISIL/Da’esh; climate change; and potential future troop drawdown.
The draft resolution in blue apparently contains a stand-alone operational section comprising four paragraphs, which focusses on the threat posed by armed groups. In the first draft circulated by the UK, the headline for this section was “Countering Al-Shabaab” and its content focussed solely on the Somali-based terrorist group. The focus of this and subsequent sections related to the activities of armed groups was broadened in later iterations of the draft to include references to ISIL/Da’esh affiliates. Russia apparently requested the addition, with support from several other members, including Brazil. The US also supported adding a reference to combating ISIL affiliates to ATMIS’ strategic objectives and tasks, while the A3 members (Gabon, Ghana, and Kenya), India, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) apparently requested to replace the term “armed opposition groups” with the term “terrorist groups” throughout the draft.
It seems that references to climate change were a contentious issue during the negotiations. The initial draft text apparently included a paragraph from resolution 2568 which emphasised the need for the Somali government and the UN to conduct adequate risk assessment and risk management strategies pertaining to climate change, other ecological changes, natural disasters and other factors on Somalia’s stability. It seems that Brazil, China, India and Russia opposed the inclusion of this paragraph. In an apparent compromise, the revised draft text placed under silence on 29 March replaced the references to “climate change, ecological challenges and natural disasters” with “droughts, floods, and famine” and added that other challenges may also contribute to the country’s instability. India apparently broke silence over this paragraph and was supported by Brazil and Russia. The US, apparently together with the A3 members, supported the compromise language on climate change suggested by the penholder. Ultimately, the draft resolution in blue retains the originally proposed language from resolution 2568 on “climate change, ecological challenges and natural disasters”, despite the objection of several Council members.
Members also apparently discussed the possible future reductions of ATMIS’ troop and police strength. The draft text in blue authorises AU member states to deploy up to 19,626 uniformed personnel, including of a minimum of 1,040 police personnel, until 31 December. It further endorses the AU PSC’s decision to draw down 2,000 personnel by 31 December and authorises the deployment of up to 17,626 uniformed personnel, including a minimum of 1040 police personnel, between 1 January 2023 and 31 March 2023. During the negotiations, Russia apparently opposed including a detailed reference to troop reductions at this stage and suggested instead to include language conveying the Council’s intention to progressively authorise further reductions. In an apparent compromise, the draft resolution in blue expresses the Council’s intention to authorise these reductions by taking into account the situation in Somalia and the conclusions of technical assessments of progress, including towards the implementation of the STP, which the Council requested in a subsequent paragraph of the resolution.
While AMISOM’s mandate did not include concrete timelines for troop and police drawdown, such provisions, which are included in ATMIS’ mandate, place an emphasis on the gradual handover of security responsibilities to Somali security forces by the end of 2023, in accordance with the STP. Moreover, additional countries may contribute to ATMIS forces alongside the current member states represented in AMISOM (Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda).
*Post-script: On 31 March, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2628, endorsing the decision by the AU Peace and Security Council to reconfigure the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) into the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS). The resolution authorises, for the period of one year, AU member states to deploy uniformed personnel in the country to carry out ATMIS’ mandated tasks.