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Trimestral review of the AU Peace and Security Council (January-March 2018)
30 April 2018

In the first trimester of 2018 – the last three months of its tenure – the outgoing Peace and Security Council (PSC), elected in January 2016, adopted several decisions on crises (Guinea-Bissau, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Lesotho) and on thematic issues such as terrorism and elections.

Welcoming the deployment of the SADC intervention in Lesotho

At its 748th meeting on 2 February 2018 the PSC ‘welcomed’ the deployment of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) continent mission in Lesotho. It requested the chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission to make proposals on possible technical and financial support by the AU for the SADC mission.

It should be noted that the wording of this decision differs strongly from past PSC statements on similar regional interventions. In its statement on Lesotho, the PSC does not explicitly ‘authorise’ the military intervention or mention an end date for this deployment, contrary to its earlier statements on deployments such as the G5 Sahel Joint Force. This decision is in line with an ongoing trend in the PSC, which has generally had a very limited role in crises in the Southern region. This has been true of crises in countries such as Zimbabwe and of past crises in Lesotho.

In its statement on Lesotho, the PSC does not explicitly authorise the military intervention
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Supporting ECOWAS’s bold path in Guinea-Bissau

The PSC adopted two decisions on Guinea-Bissau, at its 752nd meeting on 13 February and at its 760th meeting on 29 March. At both meetings, the PSC endorsed the decision adopted by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Authority of Heads of State and Government on February 2018, which imposed individual sanctions against ‘political obstructionists’ who fuelled the political stalemate in the country.

In this regard, the PSC requested the AU Commission to mobilise financial resources to support the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau’s (ECOMIB) operations and to coordinate with ECOWAS in order to ensure the full implementation of the sanction measures.

The PSC requested the AU Commission to mobilise financial resources to support the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau
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The PSC reiterated its support for the sanctions adopted by ECOWAS at its 760th meeting, through its request to the regional body to provide further details in order to ensure proper implementation. In addition, the PSC asked the AU Commission to dispatch a technical electoral mission to assess conditions and preparations for the organisation of legislative elections.

Looking for peace and stabilisation in Sudan

On 6 February the PSC renewed the mandate of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan and South Sudan (AUHIP). Among others, the PSC welcomed the appointment of AU High Representative for Silencing the Guns Ramtane Lamamra to the panel. In addition, the PSC pledged to include Egypt in future meetings on the Horn of Africa organised by the AU, as Cairo had not been included in the consultative meeting that took place in Khartoum in October 2017.

Regarding relations between Sudan and South Sudan, the PSC called on both governments to stick to their commitment to implement the cooperation agreement of 2012 and the recommendations of the extraordinary Joint Political and Security Mechanism meeting held in February 2018.

The PSC called on the presidents of Sudan and South Sudan to address the question of the final status of the Abyei area
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It should be noted that this endorsement of ECOWAS sanctions did not result in a call for the operationalisation of the PSC sub-committee on this matter. Additionally, the stance of the PSC on these individual sanctions contrasts with the one it adopted in the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where it is opposed to such sanctions.

The PSC called on the presidents of Sudan and South Sudan, Omar al-Bashir and Salva Kiir, to address the question of the final status of the Abyei area. It was requested that the two states mandate their representatives to discuss and take decisions on the establishment of the Abyei area interim institutions. The traditional leaders of Abyei were also encouraged to sustain their commitment to improve relations between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya communities.

The PSC also addressed the national political process in Sudan, as the social context remains tense owing to the austerity measures adopt by the government to address its financial crisis. The council appealed to the Sudanese government to restrain its response to public dissatisfaction with the economic situation.

In addition, the PSC urged the government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) North to renew their unilateral ceasefire. It also urged both parties to resume their negotiations on the cessation of hostilities by 6 March in order to reach a formal agreement.

In terms of the regional context, the PSC decided to hold a session to deliberate on the issue of the Horn of Africa ‘at the earliest opportunity’. It also requested the AUHIP to urgently implement the recommendations of the Khartoum consultation.

At its 754th meeting, the PSC asked both the AU Commission and the AUHIP to provide a report within three months on the progress achieved in their engagements with the parties to the conflict.

The AU Commission was called upon to take measures to mobilise financial and humanitarian resources to support the peace process. The PSC also stressed the need to realign the United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur’s (UNAMID) priorities to support post-conflict reconstruction efforts in Darfur.

The renewal of the mandate of the AUHIP took place despite the fact that the body has so far not succeeded in reaching a political agreement signed by all parties to the conflict in Darfur. The drop in violence in Darfur is, in fact, largely the result of the government’s successful military campaign and the armed movement’s exhaustion, rather than a ceasefire. As a decision has been made on the progressive withdrawal of UNAMID over the next two years, it is unclear what leverage the AUHIP will have to push all stakeholders to address the root causes of instability in Sudan.

Pursuing stabilisation in Somalia 

The PSC called for several measures on the activities of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) at its 753rd meeting on 15 February. 

Firstly, it asked the AU Commission to expedite the development of a new concept of operations.

Secondly, in order to address the continued instability in Somalia, the PSC called on the AU Commission, in collaboration with regional economic communities, regional mechanisms and the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa, to develop a mechanism for ‘naming and shaming’ suppliers, financiers, facilitators, transit points and recipients of illicit weapons. Such a mechanism would be submitted to the PSC for consideration.

The PSC called on the AU Commission to develop a mechanism for naming and shaming suppliers and financiers of illicit weapon
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Thirdly, the PSC called for the activation of various platforms for dialogue and coordination. These include the Joint Task Force on Somalia with the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS); and the platform for political dialogue with AMISOM troop-contributing countries, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and concerned AU member states, to ensure a coherent and unified political approach

Finally, the PSC decided to review the situation in Somalia and AMISOM on a quarterly basis. An interesting development is the invitation extended to the FGS – not only to the head of AMISOM – to brief the PSC on the progress made in the transition process.

No new initiative on the DRC

On 14 March the PSC held a meeting on the situation in the DRC, where the prospect of the country’s first democratic transition remains uncertain. No specific decision was taken during this meeting. The PSC reiterated its opposition to individual sanctions in the current context. It also requested the AU Commission to enable member states to participate in the round table of donors on the humanitarian situation in the DRC, scheduled for Geneva on 13 April 2018, which the Congolese government announced it would boycott. It called upon the AU Commission to take steps to coordinate the support provided by member states to the electoral process in the DRC.

Towards a reactivation of League of Arab States partnership

Under Egypt’s chairmanship, the PSC held a meeting on 15 January on the revitalisation of its partnership with the League of Arab States (LAS). Pending the reactivation of the LAS’s PSC, the two bodies agreed to hold an annual joint consultative meeting; exchange agendas and programmes of work; regularise interactions between the two chairs; undertake joint field missions to assess situations of common concern and identify further joint action; hold joint retreats/brainstorming sessions to reflect on existing and emerging threats to peace and security in both areas; and organise joint consultative meetings and seminars in the area of peacekeeping, conflict resolution and preventive diplomacy.

The reactivation of this partnership took place in the midst of a rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, with most African states (other than Somalia) siding with the latter. The challenge will be to agree on common positions, not only within the LAS but also on African crises in general, for the purposes of peace and security.

The meeting took place in the midst of a rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, with most African states siding with the latter
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Elections

On 18 January the PSC held its regular meeting at the beginning of the year on elections, with upcoming presidential polls being planned in Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and South Sudan.

The PSC asked the AU Commission to review its election observation methodology and to ensure that a core team of experts and analysts remain in the country up to the end of the polls to provide technical support as needed. It also asked members holding elections during the first quarter of 2018 to take measures to enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the outcomes.

No new path on terrorism

On 27 January the PSC held its third summit in the last five years on the issue of terrorism, following similar meetings in Addis Ababa in January 2016 and Nairobi in September 2014.

The meeting chaired by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi did not depart in any substantial manner from previous meetings on terrorism.The PSC identified new challenges surrounding terrorism, such as the return of foreign terrorist fighters and the role of cybersecurity. It also reiterated calls to implement several measures already included in previous decisions: the immediate operationalisation of the sub-committee on counter-terrorism, the drafting of an African watch list of people and entities involved in terrorist acts; and for member states to sign and ratify AU instruments on counter-terrorism.

The PSC identified new challenges surrounding terrorism, such as the return of foreign terrorist fighters
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5th High-Level Seminar on Peace and Security in Africa

On 4–5 December 2017 the PSC held its 5th High-Level Seminar on Peace and Security in Africa at the ministerial level. The purpose of the seminar is to assist incoming African non-permanent members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council to address continental issues in a manner consistent with relevant AU decisions. In 2018 the African non-permanent members of the UN Security Council will be Côte d’Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea, replacing Egypt and Senegal. Ethiopia – which was elected in 2017 – will remain on the council in 2018. The decision adopted by the PSC on 17 January 2018 aims to further institutionalise this high-level seminar through a call for the mandatory participation of all PSC member states; the inclusion in the agenda of a review of the status of implementation of the decisions adopted in the previous seminar; and the development of the list of invitees by the AU Commission that should be approved by member states.

Picture: AMISOM

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