UN Financial Support for AU Peace Missions: Somalia’s Crucial Test

The transition of the AU Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), scheduled to conclude in December, might serve as an experimental ground. The African Union is contemplating soliciting funds for a successor mission under Resolution 2719. Insiders from the Institute for Security Studies hint that this new mission could widen the spectrum and reach of troop-contributing nations, possibly bringing in forces from East and Southern Africa.

Can Resolution 2719 be tapped to bankroll a post-ATMIS operation? Is that the wisest use of the resolution given Africa’s myriad conflicts? Or should the AU chart an entirely fresh course with a new peacekeeping initiative?

On 26 March, Somalia pitched its idea for a post-ATMIS security setup to the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), aiming for an effective start by 1 January 2025. Somalia seeks to sustain its victories against the militant group al-Shabaab and called for further support in bolstering Somali Security Forces to prevent a power void following ATMIS’s exit.

Might this post-ATMIS initiative embrace units from East and Southern African nations?

The PSC acknowledged Somalia’s concerns and underscored the necessity of adequate funding via Resolution 2719. This comes despite earlier decisions to phase out ATMIS with a reduction of 4,000 troops by 30 June. The move contradicts itself: both the PSC and the Somali regime back the drawdown, yet the clamor for a subsequent peace support mission is surfacing.

Some PSC members leaned towards making Somalia the inaugural beneficiary of UN funds under Resolution 2719. During a recent field visit, a top-tier AU team assured Somali officials there would be no security vacuum post-ATMIS.

An AU envoy mentioned plans for a post-ATMIS force aimed at safeguarding strategic zones, UN premises, and critical government sites. Regional backing for such a mission seems robust, particularly from current troop and police contributors, several of which are PSC members.

The Somali Federal Government is keen on advancing a post-ATMIS mission under Resolution 2719. In May, its Foreign Ministry urged the UN Security Council president to dissolve the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), likely to clear the way for a post-ATMIS initiative. However, UN member states have raised concerns about funding multiple efforts in the area.

Even though the PSC and Somali authorities endorse the ATMIS drawdown, calls for another peace mission are stirring.

Vital decisions loom for the PSC and the UN Security Council: Would UN funds better serve UNSOM, aimed at fortifying state institutions, or ATMIS, which hones in on security? The timing and sequencing of these ventures are equally crucial. Should stabilization through security lay the groundwork for state-building, or should both progress concurrently?

The PSC must weigh the pros and cons of utilizing Resolution 2719 for a post-ATMIS mission. Al-Shabaab might exploit the security void left by ATMIS’s withdrawal, a concern is justified. Despite the training of new army units and the handover of seven outposts to Somali forces, al-Shabaab’s attacks persist. Gains in central Somalia, achieved with ATMIS’s help, risk being undone.

However, given those gains owe much to joint operations with clan militias, Somalia needs to urgently establish stabilization forces, foster community reconciliation, and deliver local services.

A tripartite committee comprising the Federal Government, AU, and UN Support Office in Somalia intends to manage the seamless transition of responsibilities from ATMIS to Somali forces. Clarity on the missions’ distinct mandates is essential.

Resolution 2719 could potentially channel funds to back the Southern African Development Community’s Mission in East DRC.

The AU Commission also needs to scrutinize the required military, police, and civilian components, the operational blueprint, budget implications, and exit strategies for a post-ATMIS mission. An audit by the AU’s Military Staff Committee could guide recommendations to the PSC and AU Commission.

The decision to dispatch a new mission to Somalia must consider the broader context of Africa’s lingering and emerging crises.

The conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has hit crisis levels, with recent advances by the M23 rebel group displacing 250,000 people. With the UN’s Stabilization Mission in the DRC expected to wrap up in December, Resolution 2719 funds could bolster the under-resourced Southern African Development Community’s Mission in East DRC.

Alternatively, Resolution 2719 might support an intervention in Sudan’s civil strife, which has obliterated state institutions, resulted in massive casualties, caused humanitarian disasters, and displaced around eight million people. An AU-led mission could potentially shift the scales, offering short-term stability and paving the way for a ceasefire.

The PSC is slated to mull over directing Resolution 2719 to help stabilize countries in turmoil. Deliberations will revolve around whether the AU should stick to a single case study or adapt the resolution across diverse situations. A rigorous analysis of the merits and challenges of each conflict will inform the verdict.

For Somalia, Resolution 2719 unveils a chance to harness the UN-AU security alliance. It also provides a special opportunity for the AU Commission and PSC to activate the African Standby Force as originally envisioned, deploying a mission in Somalia that includes forces beyond just East African countries.

Lengthy debates to resolve challenges around Resolution 2719 are ongoing, so tangible action might not materialize before the end of 2024. Meanwhile, AU officials should diligently evaluate the future of ATMIS and the potential impact of a new peace support operation on Somalia’s enduring stability.

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