As the U.N. Security Council is determining what future role it should play in Somalia based on the recent report of the Secretary-General, the major developments of the political track of the United Nations approach are overshadowed by the security and humanitarian developments during the previous four months. These conditions support the report’s conclusion that further U.N. involvement in Somalia under the Security Council’s Resolution 2010 (2011) should take the form of a U.N. assistance mission as opposed to a joint African Union and U.N. peace support operation, a fully integrated U.N. peacebuilding mission, or a U.N. peacebuilding mission separate from the U.N. Support Office for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Though Somalia has witnessed a successful eight-year political transition where a new federal parliament and political agenda were established, the instability of the security and humanitarian situations in the country have dictated against the U.N.’s adoption of a plan of action that includes more direct U.N. involvement. The reporting period covers the four months immediately following the adoption of the provisional constitution, the fundamental document of the new government containing a host of more progressive rights and protections than in the past.
The Secretary-General’s report recommends the Security Council opt for a U.N. assistance mission that “would deliver political and peacebuilding support with a presence across Somalia.” Logistical support for AMISOM would certainly continue, because the major advantage to this approach are the relative lack of constraints the African Union forces operate under as compared to U.N. peacekeeping missions. As eliminating the functional capacity Al-Shabaab and its unpredictable yet consistent attacks, the inherently defensive posture of U.N. ground forces precludes the possibility of offensive operations. Such a strategic position would merely perpetuate the nascent governments’ tendency to violate individual rights in an effort to contain the larger problems. This status quo where the new constitution is overridden or construed to violate principles of human rights protections will only serve to deligitimate the Somali government internally should it persist. The U.N.’s continued involvement serves to monitor and encourage the redress of practices and occurrences out of step with human rights and the rule of law.
Though Al-Shabaab is recognized as the most persistent violator of human rights in Somalia, the Somali National Security Forces and allied groups are frequently implicated in cases of sexual violence. Successful combat operations of the African Union in stabilizing the situation in Somalia are thus seen as preconditions necessary to greater U.N. involvement as desired by the international community and by the President of Somalia. If international efforts take the form of a joint African Union and U.N. peace support operation or a fully integrated U.N. peacebuilding mission without a more stable security and humanitarian backdrop, U.N. procedures and rules of engagement will hinder the peace process. Keeping the U.N. informed and involved through a mission primarily serving to assist to AMISOM would both increase the effectiveness of AMISOM operations and ease the transition to greater U.N. involvement. This role is consistent with that envisaged by the original Security Council Resolution 1863 (2009), and supported by the successes of African Union operations, which have brought al-Shabaab to perhaps its weakest state in years.
The report acknowledges the need to keep the option of offensive operations on the table and as such would set a supporting U.N presence that would enable AMISOM to do so where it is not possible for the U.N. To do so requires maintaining a structural separation between African Union and U.N. operations. This recommendation makes the best use of the respective roles of the African Union and the U.N. and suggests a course of action that avoids the limitations of U.N. mechanisms in relation to the current situation in Somalia through the flexibility of a regional, African Union response. As President Mohamud of Somalia has requested African Union and U.N. efforts be fully integrated, the structural separation is envisioned to last only as long as is needed to stabilize the security and humanitarian situations.