The Security Council on Wednesday adopted a resolution to delay the drawdown of 2,000 personnel of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) for six months.
Pursuant to resolution 2628 of 31 March, which reconfigured the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) into ATMIS, the AU was expected to withdraw 2,000 ATMIS personnel by 31 December as part of the mission’s phased drawdown. The draft in blue extends the deadline for this drawdown until 30 June 2023, while reconfirming the commitment of the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) for ATMIS to exit Somalia by 31 December 2024. The penholder circulated the first draft on 13 December, and while in-person negotiations of all 15 Council members were not convened, comments were submitted (and the text was revised) via email correspondence. Silence was broken yesterday (20 December) by the African members (Gabon, Ghana, and Kenya), who wanted to underscore the AUPSC’s support for the drawdown by the end of June 2023. After a slight revision of the language, the text was put into blue yesterday.
On 11 November, the AUPSC met to consider the Somali government’s request to extend the first phase of ATMIS’ operational timeline. This is apparently necessitated by a number of factors, including the delay in the implementation of the Somalia Transition Plan (STP) and the National Security Architecture, which have been developed to facilitate the gradual handover of security responsibilities from AMISOM/ATMIS to the Somali security forces. A particular challenge in this regard has been the lack of progress in terms of force generation and integration. In the face of this challenge, there seems to be a concern that the premature withdrawal of these personnel may create a security vacuum that could likely be exploited by Al-Shabaab.
ATMIS has been conducting joint operations with Somali security forces to dislodge Al-Shabaab from some of its strongholds in south and central Somalia. It has also been providing various forms of support to them in their ongoing offensive military operations against the terrorist group, including air assets; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and casualty and medical evacuations. As a result, there seems to be concern that the withdrawal of ATMIS forces may affect these operations.
In its communiqué adopted following the 11 November meeting, the AUPSC expressed its support for the Somali government’s request for the extension of the ATMIS operational timelines and directed the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, to transmit the communiqué to the Security Council for endorsement of its decision. On 9 December, Ghana sent an identical letter to the UN Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council communicating the AUPSC decision on the matter, a copy of which was also circulated to all Council members on 13 December.
To respond to the AU’s request, the penholder proposed a short draft text authorising the extension of the drawdown of 2,000 ATMIS personnel by six months (that is, until 30 June 2023).
Several reporting requirements are outlined in the draft in blue. It extends the timeline stipulated in resolution 2628 (from 15 February 2023 to 30 April 2023) for reporting on the progress made in implementing the benchmarks contained in the Secretary-General’s letter of 30 September on UNSOM’s strategic review. As noted in the draft in blue, this report is expected to be produced jointly with the AU and in close consultations with Somalia and donors. The draft in blue requests a further report by 30 April 2023 that includes a sector-by-sector assessment of security and ATMIS performance. Finally, the draft text in blue requests Somalia to provide an updated force generation plan by 30 April 2023.
It seems that the financing of ATMIS was raised during the negotiations. At a 7 September Council meeting on Somalia, the acting head of ATMIS, Fiona Lortan, informed Council members that the mission is facing a funding shortfall of between $40 and $50 million and appealed for sustainable, predictable, and adequate financing. In its 11 November communiqué, the AUPSC also reiterated its call for the Security Council to consider authorising access to UN assessed contributions to secure financing for AU-led peace support operations including ATMIS. While some members wanted to incorporate language on financing in the text, several members concurred that the financing of AU peace operations is a broader issue that did not need to be mentioned in the text. As a result, the draft in blue does not mention financial resources for ATMIS.
In the draft text in blue, the Council decides to hold a formal meeting on ATMIS no later than 31 March 2023, with the participation of Somalia, the AU, the EU, and ATMIS troop-contributing countries. It seems that this meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss financial support for ATMIS, as well as progress in the drawdown of the mission.
It appears the draft has widespread support, although at least one Council member would have preferred if the drawdown was extended for three months, rather than six months in the text in blue. This would have meant that the withdrawal of 2,000 ATMIS personnel would have been temporally aligned with the reauthorisation of ATMIS in March.