Somalia: Private Meeting
Tomorrow morning (27 March), the Security Council will hold a private meeting on the situation in Somalia. This meeting will be convened pursuant to resolution 2670 of 21 December 2022, which extended the operational timeline for the drawdown of the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) by six months until 30 June (For more, see our 21 December 2022 What’s in Blue story). Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson (SRCC) for Somalia and head of the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) Mohamed El-Amine Souef, EU Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Annette Weber, representatives of Somalia, and ATMIS troop-contributing countries are expected to participate in the meeting.
When the Security Council extended the operational timeline by six months, it decided to convene a formal meeting no later than 31 March 2023 to discuss the implementation of the Somalia Transition Plan (STP) and the National Security Architecture (NSA), which have been developed to facilitate the gradual handover of security responsibilities from ATMIS to the Somali security forces. During the negotiations on resolution 2670, some members agreed to the extension on an exceptional basis but insisted on following up on the progress in implementing the STP and ATMIS’s withdrawal.
At tomorrow’s meeting, Somalia is likely to explain its ongoing efforts to implement the STP and NSA, including by generating new security forces and integrating existing regional forces, as well as by training and equipping them with regional and international support. In this regard, it may indicate the return of 3,500 Somali National Army (SNA) troops, who were trained in Eritrea and deployed on the frontlines in the ongoing offensive operations against Al-Shabaab. Somalia may also note that other SNA troops are being trained in Egypt, Ethiopia, Turkey, and Uganda. On 19 March, troops trained in Uganda with support from the United Arab Emirates graduated in the presence of Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mahmood, according to media reports. Furthermore, Somalia may refer to the conclusion of the recent meeting of the National Consultative Council, comprised of leaders from the federal government and the federal member states, which was held on 16-17 March in Baidoa, Southwest State. At the meeting, the National Consultative Council reportedly agreed to revise the NSA, increasing the SNA troops from 18,000 to 30,000 and the police force from 32,000 to 40,000.
The other likely focus of tomorrow’s meeting will be progress in the ongoing offensive operations against Al-Shabaab. Somalia may describe the successful operations conducted by the SNA, together with allied clan militias, against Al-Shabaab in central Somalia, particularly in Hirshabelle and Galmudug states. It may also indicate the launching of new operations against the group in southern Somalia, including in Jubaland and in South-West state. Somalia may underline the significance of these operations in assisting the gradual handover of security responsibilities from ATMIS to the SNA. It may seek support for these operations, including through weapons and ammunition transfers, and reiterate its request for the lifting of the arms embargo imposed on Somalia. On 17 November 2022, the Security Council renewed the 751 Al-Shabaab sanctions regime for one year, along with a partial lifting of the arms embargo on Somali security forces. (For more, see our 16 November 2022 What’s in Blue story.)
Souef may provide an update on plans to withdraw 2000 ATMIS uniformed personnel in June pursuant to resolution 2670, subject to progress by the Somali government in terms of force generation and integration. At a 7 March meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) on Somalia and the phased drawdown of ATMIS, Souef spoke of the need “to undertake more detailed planning with the Federal Government to understand where they would want ATMIS to continue to hold and where Somalia would be willing to take over across ATMIS sectors”.
The funding shortfall facing ATMIS is the other challenge that Souef is likely to raise at tomorrow’s meeting. The AU anticipated that bilateral and international partners would continue to support ATMIS financially during the extended drawdown, but in his remarks at the 7 March AUPSC meeting, Souef said that “key partners, including the European Union (EU), have indicated no new funding”. He expressed regret that resolution 2670 had not provided funding modalities for ATMIS during the extended drawdown. This issue may dominate the discussion at tomorrow’s meeting, which takes place only a few days after the AU and UN joint high-level meeting held in New York on 22 March on securing predictable and sustainable funding for ATMIS. At that meeting, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Bankole Adeoye reportedly appealed to bilateral and international partners to fill the $90 million funding shortfall facing the mission.
Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, who also attended the high-level meeting, noted the dire financial situation of ATMIS and stressed the urgent need to ensure “predictable, sustainable, and multi-year funding” for the mission. The other issue raised at the 22 March meeting was the need to enhance support for the increasing number of SNA troops. The UN Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) is only mandated to support up to 13,900 SNA troops in accordance with resolution 2628 of 31 March 2022, which reconfigured the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to ATMIS, and the funds available in the UN Trust Fund supporting SNA troops are “stubbornly low”, DiCarlo said.
The EU remains a major ATMIS financial contributor, covering salaries and stipends for troops and civilian staff. The Head of the EU Delegation to the UN, Ambassador Olof Skoog, informed the high-level meeting about the EU’s decision to provide € 85 million for support to ATMIS military personnel, € 33 million for support to ATMIS civilian and police personnel, and € 25 million to support the SNA. Weber is likely to highlight the EU contribution at tomorrow’s meeting and share its perspectives on the implementation of the STP and the drawdown of ATMIS. It also seems that there are funding expectations of other bilateral and international partners, including the US, China, and the Gulf states.
ATMIS TCCs are likely to echo the AU’s views at tomorrow’s meeting and stress the need to avoid a reversal of the gains in fighting Al-Shabaab and to promote stability in Somalia. According to media reports, some of the TCCs are planning to deploy additional troops in Somalia to support the ongoing offensive operations by the SNA and allied militias, as part of an understanding reached at a regional leaders’ summit hosted by Mahmoud on 1 February in Mogadishu, which included the participation of the presidents of Djibouti and Kenya and the prime minister of Ethiopia.
With only three months remaining before the expiry of the extended operational timeline for the drawdown of 2,000 ATMIS uniformed personnel, Council members are likely to be interested in knowing more about the progress in implementing the ATMIS mandate and the security transition. This is an especially important issue for Council members, having accepted the delay in the ATMIS drawdown under exceptional circumstances.
Two key reports on Somalia are due by 30 April pursuant to resolution 2670: a formal update from the Somali government on progress in implementing the STP and NSA, and force generation and integration; and a report from the AU on the implementation of the ATMIS mandate, including a sector-by-sector assessment of security and the mission’s performance.