Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Somalia: A crisis caught in AU-UN doctrinal divides

Somalia has, for two decades now, been one of the few countries that has constantly dominated security related discussions in Addis Ababa and New York.
The seemingly endless conflict in the Horn of African country and the regional as well as global damages it has brought is an issue of consensus between the African Union and the United Nations; how to resolve it, however, has proved litigious.       
Much of the cooperation between the continental bloc and the world body is on peace and security despite profound differences in their respective doctrines of peace and peacekeeping. And that has protracted or taken the planned takeover of AU’s peace mission in Somalia (AMISOM), by the UN, out of the equation altogether.
“Given the UN peacekeeping doctrine that it deploys when there is a peace to keep, in a situation like Somalia, it is unlikely that the UN would be able to deploy a peace mission in the immediate future even though significant advances have been made on the ground,” reads the 36-page report by Jean Ping, AU Commission Chairperson, presented at a January 9 AU-UN partnership meeting in Addis Ababa.
Hence, the African side wants what it calls “decades-old” and “risk averse” principles changed if cooperation between the two bodies is to prove effective.
“The UN and AU need to address the doctrinal gap that is emerging between the two institutions with respect to the deployment of peacekeepers,” ads the report in its recommendations on strategic cooperation.
In the interim, perhaps frustrated with UN irresponsiveness, the AU’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) last week decided to raise AMISOM’s troop size by over 5,000 to try to pacify more parts of the restive nation by the Indian Ocean. Even in that case, the AU cannot move an inch without a blessing from the UN Security Council (UNSC). The financing and logistics comes from the West  only with a nod from the New York based body.
“While the UNSC has lent critical support to AU…peace initiatives, more needs to be done to further boost the continent’s efforts and interventions,” states Ping’s report. “A case in point is the Situation in Somalia, where a timely response to the requests made by the PSC, in particular with respect to the control of flow of arms and fighters into the country, by air and sea, would have gone a long way in furthering the peace and reconciliation process.”     
As further proof, the AU more than a year ago sought to boost AMISOM from the original 8,000 to 20,000, saying generous troops contributors Burundi and Uganda were ready to instantly send the human element of the mission. But the Security Council said 12,000 was enough although that number is yet to be reached.               
Yet again, the AU convinced the Security Council about the grace of its attention to Africa’s proposal to increase AMISOM troop size over 17,000 by incorporating Kenyan soldiers in Somalia on their own mission under the continental mission.
It is on the assumption that this proposition would get a quick okay from the UN that AU last week agreed to Ethiopia’s request for an immediate AMISOM takeover of areas the regional powerhouse recently liberated from Al-Shabab insurgents. Nevertheless, when it met last Wednesday, the Security Council simply asked for predictable, reliable and timely resources to support the AMISOM, but no decision on the proposed troop boost.
“The members of the Security Council reiterated their full support to AMISOM and expressed their continued appreciation for the commitment of troops by the contributing countries,” the Council said in a statement, issued after UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe and Ramtane Lamamra, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, briefed the Council.
As always, Lamamra reportedly told the Council that despite the obstacles, there has been significant progress in Somalia, which should encourage the international community to continue providing support.
“In spite of severe challenges of a devastating humanitarian crisis, the gains made on the ground have created an unprecedented window of opportunity to further peace and reconciliation, and help the Somali people open a new chapter in their troubled history,” he told the Council only to come out of the meeting realizing the hopes he left Addis Ababa were in vain.
It is not the first time that the AU and the most active sub-regional bloc on Somali issues – the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) – have said it is now or never to pacify Somalia. After Ethiopia’s incursion into Somalia in 2006, the same statement had been repeatedly echoed by regional and continental leaders only to see the lawless country descend back to the same, if not worse, conflict situation while the continental and global bodies remained divided over how to address such problems.     
“The task of resolving protracted conflicts such as Darfur and Somalia, with serious regional and international consequences, remains a considerable hurdle,” adds Ping’s report.
In spite of all the basic difference over such issues, the AU is bound by its own legal documents that state the PSC shall cooperate and consult with the UNSC and other UN agencies and international organizations in its activities in the continent. On the contrary the UN is not under such obligation  
“While these consultation represent a significant step in the right direction, they are yet to translate into a common understanding on the basis of cooperation between these two organs,” according to the 36-page report. “While it is clear that given its primacy in the maintenance of international peace and security, the UNSC cannot be expected to be bound by the decisions of PSC on matters pertaining to Africa, the AU nonetheless is of the view that its requests should, at a minimum be duly considered by the UNSC.”                
And until the different realities and perspectives of the two organizations change, or at least are compromised, conflicts like Somalia’s likely remain lingering.