AU Endorses Joint Mission with UN for Somalia

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The African Union says it wants to partner with the United Nations in a proposed joint mission to support Somalia in its efforts to battle armed extremists and achieve stability.

In a statement, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council said it endorsed an independent assessment team’s recommendation for a hybrid operation that would replace the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) after this year.

Since 2007, the regional peacekeeping mission, which operates with U.N. approval, has aided Somali government forces in their battle to stabilize the Horn of Africa country, mainly against al-Shabab militants.

The African Union communique notes “grave concern at the worsening security situation in Somalia … in large parts of the country, (which) has detracted attention from the critical processes of state-building and stabilization.”

The hybrid mission was among several options recommended by the assessment team in a report released in May. The plan, which the African Union has proposed to take effect in January, would need approval by the U.N. Security Council and Somalia’s central government.

It faces stiff opposition. Last December, a separate U.N. assessment team had proposed that the African Union reconfigure or modify its current mission. But it did not recommend military involvement by the U.N., which already has a diplomatic mission in Somalia.

Somali Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdirizak previously rejected calls for a hybrid plan.

“We prefer an option that emphasizes the Somali transition plan,” he said in an August interview with VOA Somali. That plan “pursues the enemy while building the capacity of the Somali forces and eventually transfers security responsibilities to Somalis.”

The African Union assessment team’s May report recommended the hybrid A.U.-U.N. mission have a mix of police (50%), military personnel (35%) and civilians (15%).

The African Union, U.N. and Somali government would have to decide on the strategic objectives, mandate, size and composition of the new mission, the statement said.

Currently, five countries — including Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi, Kenya and Djibouti — contribute to the more than 19,000 AMISOM military personnel operating in Somalia. The communique said the African Union wants to expand the number of countries supplying troops.

The communique called for establishing the hybrid mission under the U.N. Charter’s Chapter VII, which it said would “ensure predictable and sustainable multi-year financing for the future mission through U.N. assessed contributions.”

Currently, international donors — mainly the European Union — cover the mission’s operating costs. The IPI Global Observatory has estimated it costs hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

In pressing for the hybrid plan, the African Union communique cited “deep concern” at the political impasse between Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (commonly known as Farmajo) and his prime minister, Mohamed Hussein Roble, and its “significant impact on ongoing political processes. …” The two are embroiled in a fight over the case of a missing female intelligence officer.

Somalia chooses its president through indirect elections. The country is in the midst of a slow-moving election process that could take months. Most lawmakers in the 54-seat Upper House have been elected, but the process to elect 275 members of the Lower House has not begun. The two chambers will vote on a president at a date that has not yet been determined. The next president was expected to have been elected by October 10.

The communique said that the leaders’ dispute is not only negatively affecting the political process and elections but is also delaying discussions on a post-2021 African Union mission.

The African Union seeks immediate consultations with the U.N., the Somali government and other stakeholders to work out transition plans.

This report originated in the VOA Somali Service.

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