Ban recommends ‘incremental approach’ to Somalia peace force

Noting hard-won progress in Somalia but also that the situation remains in dangerous flux, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recommended a phased approach to United Nations peacekeeping support to the faction-torn nation.

“While the deployment of a multidimensional United Nations peacekeeping operation should remain the United Nations goal, realistically achieving that goal will require fulfilling the conditions set out in this and previous reports,” he says in a report to the Security Council released overnight.

The UN News service says those conditions include the assurance of security for UN personnel and a political process that has gelled enough to permit the diverse political actors to agree on the insertion of international forces, the idea of which remains divisive and could exacerbate conflict if pursued too soon, Ban says.

In January, the 15-member body signalled its intention to establish a UN force, when conditions permit, in the Horn of Africa country that has lacked a functioning central government since 1991.

In that resolution, Ban was requested to establish a trust fund to help support the existing African Union (AU) force, known as AMISOM, and to facilitate a logistical support package, training and equipment, in anticipation of its eventual absorption into a UN force.

It requested Ban, by 15 April, to develop the mandate for the new force that would include support for the flow of humanitarian aid, monitoring a ceasefire and assisting “in supporting the effective re-establishment and training of inclusive Somali security forces, including military, police and judiciary.”

In the resulting report, the Secretary-General proposes an approach consisting of three major phases.

The first step would see the UN maintain its support to AMISOM. The Organization will also help build the Somali security institutions, support its political reconciliation process, and provide humanitarian assistance.

The success of this phase, which Ban says he hopes would last 3 to 4 months, will be gauged through frequent trips to accessible areas of Somalia by relevant UN units.

Then, security conditions permitting, a second phase (also to last 3 to 4 months) will lead to “a light United Nations footprint” in Mogadishu. This phase will see the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) provide direct assistance to the political process on the ground.

It will also have the Department of Field Support (DFS) ensure the delivery of the support package to AMISOM, while the UN country team oversees humanitarian, development and recovery initiatives.

Having satisfied himself of the “acceptability of a UN presence in Mogadishu,” the Secretary-General will then refer the matter back to the Security Council to advise and decide on the final phase.

That phase would be a full-fledged UN peacekeeping operation to take over from AMISOM, Ban says.

In the meantime, he says, he remains deeply concerned at the worsening humanitarian situation in Somalia, and what he called “the under-funding of life-saving humanitarian assistance.”

He urges Member States to come forward with additional pledges to the consolidated appeal for Somalia that will enable the United Nations and its partners to deliver much-needed assistance to populations trapped in a deadly constellation of conflict, drought and economic crisis.