UN funds for AU peace operations: Somalia as a test case

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Last December, the United Nations (UN) Security Council unanimously agreed to consider case-by-case requests from the African Union (AU) for UN funding for peacekeeping operations on the continent.

After decades of exchanges between the UN and AU on how to fund peace operations, Resolution 2719 was a milestone – even though questions about its implementation persist. Among them are whether the funds could supplement existing peace operations, or if the AU should use the opportunity to create new missions.

The AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) could be a test case. ATMIS is scheduled to exit in December, and the AU could request funds under Resolution 2719 for a post-ATMIS mission. Institute for Security Studies sources say a new mission could expand the number and scope of troop-contributing countries to include contingents from East and Southern Africa.

Could Resolution 2719 be used to support a post-ATMIS setup? Would this be the most useful application of the resolution in light of the continent’s plethora of conflicts? Might the AU want to create an entirely new peace support mission?

Somalia briefed the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) on 26 March on its proposal for a post-ATMIS security arrangement starting on 1 January 2025. Somalia wants to keep its gains in the fight against the violent extremist group al-Shabaab, and requested further capacity building for the Somali Security Forces to avoid a security vacuum when ATMIS leaves.

The PSC recognised Somalia’s concerns and stressed the need for adequate funding through Resolution 2719. This is despite its earlier decision to close ATMIS with a third drawdown of 4 000 personnel by 30 June. That decision presents contradictions: the PSC and the Somali Federal Government support the drawdown, but a request for another peace support operation is emerging.

Some PSC members have shown a preference for Somalia being the first country to use UN funds through Resolution 2719. During a recent field mission, an AU Commission high-level delegation reassured Somalis there would be no security vacuum following ATMIS’ departure.

An AU representative said there were plans to establish a post-ATMIS force to help protect strategic population centres, UN facilities and key government installations. Such a mission would have strong regional support, particularly from current troop- and police-contributing countries, some of whom are PSC members.

Somalia’s Federal Government is eager to pursue a post-ATMIS mission through Resolution 2719. In May, its Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry asked the UN Security Council president to terminate the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) – possibly to lay the foundations for a post-ATMIS mission. UN member states had voiced their concerns about funding multiple initiatives in the country.

The PSC and UN Security Council must decide whether UN funds would better support UNSOM, which capacitates and strengthens state institutions, or ATMIS, which focuses on security. It’s equally important to consider the timing and sequencing of these missions. Should stabilisation through security precede building state capacity or take place simultaneously?

The PSC must also consider the pros and cons of using Resolution 2719 for a post-ATMIS mission. There are legitimate concerns that ATMIS’ exit would create a security vacuum that al-Shabaab would capitalise on. Even as new army units are being trained, and despite the successful handover of seven security bases to Somali forces, al-Shabaab attacks continue. Recent gains by the government in central Somalia, with ATMIS’ help, could be overturned.

However, considering that these recent successes are thanks to a joint campaign with clan militias, Somalia urgently needs to establish holding forces, work for communal reconciliation and meet local service delivery expectations.

A committee comprising the Federal Government, AU and UN Support Office in Somalia aims to ensure the smooth transfer of responsibility from ATMIS to the Somali Security Forces. All three stakeholders must distinguish between the mandates of Somalia’s current and future peace missions.

The AU Commission must also assess requirements for the military, police and civilian components, the concept of operations, budgetary implications, and exit strategies for a post-ATMIS mission. The AU’s Military Staff Committee should undertake its own review and advise the PSC and AU Commission.

The decision to deploy a new mission in Somalia must also be considered against the backdrop of protracted and emerging crises in Africa.

The eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) conflict has reached breaking point with recent M23 rebel group advancements displacing 250 000 people. The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC, which lacked support from local communities and political elites, is expected to exit in December. Funds could be sourced under Resolution 2719 to boost the meagrely resourced Southern African Development Community’s Mission in east DRC.

The AU could also use Resolution 2719 to back an intervention in Sudan’s civil war. The conflict has seen the collapse of state institutions, a massive death toll and humanitarian disaster, and the displacement of around eight million people. An AU-mandated mission could significantly tip the scales, bring short-term stabilisation and provide impetus for a ceasefire.

The PSC is expected to meet and discuss how to use Resolution 2719 to help stabilise countries in conflict. Considerations will hinge on whether the AU focuses on a single test case or applies the resolution to various contexts. Making the decision requires a thorough analysis of the advantages and challenges of each conflict.

In Somalia, Resolution 2719 presents an opportunity to apply the UN-AU security partnership. It’s also a unique chance for the AU Commission and PSC to fully operationalise the African Standby Force as originally conceived, and to deploy an AU-led mission in Somalia made up of troops beyond East African countries.

Protracted discussions to iron out challenges around Resolution 2719 are ongoing, so concrete action may not be possible before the end of 2024. In the meantime, AU officials should thoroughly assess the future of ATMIS and whether a new peace support operation would tip the scale in favour of long-lasting peace and stability in Somalia.

Written by Maram Mahdi, Researcher, African Peace and Security Governance, ISS.

Republished with permission from ISS Africa. The original article can be found here.