A new report by the Institute for Security Studies reveals how funding uncertainties in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have heightened the debate on external support for the mission; raised concerns over AMISOM’s achievements after 10 years of operations and spurred the development of concrete plans for AMISOM’s tentative withdrawal by 2020/21.
The quest for predictable funding for AMISOM was yet again discussed at the recent Peace and Security Council (PSC) meeting on 15 February 2018.
Funding uncertainty has always been a major issue for AMISOM, but the situation worsened in January 2016 when the European Union (EU) – which pays AMISOM troop allowances – placed a cap on the amount it would provide, while calling for greater burden sharing. The EU is also yet to communicate its funding for AMISOM beyond 2018, and various efforts by the AU to secure alternative funding streams have not been successful.
The EU is yet to communicate its funding for AMISOM beyond 2018 Tweet this
Recently, the United Nations (UN) secretary-general and the AU Commission chairperson respectively appointed Ramtane Lamamra, Algeria’s former minister of foreign affairs, and Jean-Marie Guéhenno, former UN under-secretary-general in charge of Peacekeeping Operations, to lead a consultative process that will make recommendations on the best options for predictable and sustainable funding for AMISOM and the Somali security forces. These recommendations, which are expected within the next few months, are another attempt to keep AMISOM afloat.
A test for African solutions
AMISOM remains a significant test of the resilience of the continental body in terms of driving the peace and security agenda in Africa, in line with its resolve to find African solutions to African problems. Somalia is the only country where the AU plays the primary leadership role in the peace operations and state-building effort.
The mission, which was originally scheduled to run for six months, has now been in operation for over a decade owing to the UN’s unwillingness to take over, as initially envisaged. Over the years, AMISOM has been sustained by UN logistic support and by the EU, which pays the troop and police allowances, as well as related expenses, from its African Peace Facility.
The mission has now been in operation for over a decade owing to the UN’s unwillingness to take over Tweet this
Other bilateral donors such as the United States, the United Kingdom and China have also provided ad hoc support to the mission. Yet these arrangements have been unpredictable, which in turn have impacted on when and how the mission operated.
EU calls for burden sharing
In January 2016 the EU decided on a 20% reduction in AMISOM peacekeeper stipends – from US$1 028 to US$822 per month. The EU started off with a monthly budget of €700 000 – about US$500 for each peacekeeper – when it began contributing to the mission in 2007, pending the envisaged UN takeover in November 2007. Ten years on, the EU’s financial commitment to AMISOM has expanded in line with increases in authorised troop numbers and individual peacekeeper allowances. By 2016 the EU budget hovered around €20 million per month (about US$1 028 before the reduction to $822); a steep increase from the initial pledge.
Objections by AMISOM TCCs
When the salary cut was announced, AMISOM’s major troop-contributing countries (TCCs) – including Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda – opposed the move, and many threatened to withdraw from the mission. Kenya and Uganda were the most vocal, but eventually went back on their statements in view of the regional threats posed by al-Shabaab.
The EU had also refused to pay Burundian troops through the government because of its sanctions against the government (related to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term in 2015). Burundi threatened to withdraw its troops until a last-minute deal was secured in January 2017 to pay the troops through a private bank.
Burundi threatened to withdraw its troops until a last-minute deal was secured in January 2017 Tweet this
While Ethiopia at first was reticent to take action, it then pulled its troops from key Somali towns in the Bakool, Hiiraan and Galgaduud areas. In many cases, this resulted in al-Shabaab’s immediate recapture of the recovered towns. Ethiopia claimed that its troop withdrawal either involved Ethiopian forces operating outside the context of AMISOM or formed part of routine redeployments within the mission. But Ethiopian officials also linked some of the pull-outs to the lack of international support.
The funding uncertainty has meanwhile evolved and is now more serious than the initial troop stipend reductions. The EU is currently reviewing its future support to AMISOM in view of other mounting responsibilities, such as increased migration to Europe and the fight against terrorism in the Sahel. The EU recently raised its contribution to the G5 Sahel Force from €50 million to €100 million.
The EU recently increased its contribution to the G5 Sahel Force from €50 million to €100 million Tweet this
Moreover, some within the EU favour a shift away from paying peacekeeping troops’ allowances to only supporting specific logistical mission elements. This would ensure that costs to donors were kept down, as it avoids open-ended commitments to missions with unclear timeframes, as in the case of Somalia.
Although the EU is likely to continue funding AMISOM this year, the uncertainty around future support is daunting.
In addition, the UN Security Council has rejected proposals to use the UN’s assessed contributions to fund AMISOM, despite repeated requests by the AU.
Diverging opinions about AMISOM’s achievements
While the funding reductions and uncertainty reflect the growing donor fatigue, the ISS report shows that this is also an outcome of the diverging opinions over AMISOM’s performance. Some agree with the AU that AMISOM has achieved its principal strategic goals, notably protecting the successive Somali authorities, securing two election processes and weakening al-Shabaab.
Some agree with the AU that AMISOM has achieved its principal strategic goals Tweet this
Others, however, are more sceptical about AMISOM’s added value and fault the mission for not taking stronger action against al-Shabaab, especially since mid-2015.
At the same time, AMISOM TCCs see the stalled offensives in Somalia as being a result of the inadequate resources the overstretched mission has received.
Apart from both sides playing the blame game, there is also a new policy stance among donors. They believe that providing direct support to the Somali security forces rather than AMISOM should be the ultimate objective, following the elections and the restoration of various governance institutions in Somalia.
However, the political and security situation remains fragile, as indicated by two major al-Shabaab attacks in Mogadishu in October 2017 – incidents that exposed security weaknesses in the country, and indicated the long road the Somali security forces would have to travel before taking over from AMISOM.
Impact on AMISOM’s exit strategy
One of the major outcomes of the new funding crisis is the effort by the AU and its partners to develop a concrete exit strategy. Technically, the mission had always had two interlinked exit strategies. The first was the expectation that it would transition to a UN peacekeeping operation, while the second was predicated on the ability of the Somali security forces to provide security in the country.
One of the outcomes of the funding crisis is the effort by the AU to develop a concrete exit strategy Tweet this
However, in light of the current funding crisis, the PSC in June 2016 endorsed a new concept of operations, which unveiled a tentative plan for the mission to begin a drawdown in 2018, ahead of a pull-out by 2020. Deliberations with the UN moved the timeline to 2021, for a conditions-based exit predicated on seeing Somalia through the next elections in 2021, and enhancing the capacity of the country’s security forces.
As part of the exit strategy, AMISOM started the first phase of its drawdown between October and December 2017, when 1 000 AMISOM soldiers were pulled out, to be replaced by 500 police officers. The drawdown also facilitated the transfer of some primary security responsibilities to the Somali security forces.
Nevertheless, the unpredictable funding has hampered the pace of the exit plans. Somalia’s security forces are plagued by a lack of weapons, irregular salary payments, corruption, entrenched clan allegiances and even a stream of defections to al-Shabaab itself.
Besides the overall focus on fighting al-Shabaab, AMISOM needs to work closely with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in its efforts to foster unity of purpose in Somalia’s governing structures, especially in terms of diffusing tensions and rivalries between the federal government and federal member states. These have been at odds over power sharing and resource control, as well as the decision of the Somali Federal Government to remain neutral in the Gulf crisis.
These issues have to be resolved to create conditions for an effective fight against al-Shabaab, as well as to address the dire refugee and humanitarian needs in the country.