The UN Security Council on Tuesday renewed for six months the authorization of the African Union force in Somalia but continued its drawdown of boots on the ground in a move toward complete withdrawal.
The African Union (AU) force, which has already begun a withdrawal, was given until the end of September for the departure of a further 3,000 soldiers.
In April 2022, the Security Council approved the replacement of AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia), created in 2007, by ATMIS (African Transitional Mission in Somalia), also led by the AU but with a reinforced mandate to fight the Al-Shabaab Islamists.
The ATMIS contingent, which had included over 19,000 soldiers and police officers, will have to be reduced to zero by the end of 2024, with a gradual transfer of its activities to Somali forces.
In accordance with previous Security Council resolutions, ATMIS began withdrawing 2,000 soldiers a few days ago, a process due to be completed by the end of June.
The withdrawal is “almost complete,” deputy Somali ambassador Mohamed Rabi Yusuf said on Tuesday, adding that his government would undertake the “necessary preparations in coordination with the African Union for phase two and the withdrawal of 3,000 ATMIS troops by September.”
The resolution authorizing ATMIS until the end of 2023 was adopted unanimously on Tuesday, and sets a new ceiling of 14,626 uniformed personnel from October 1 to December 31.
The Council also said it is “ready to review these figures” in the light of the results of a technical assessment to be provided by Somalia and the AU by September 15, in particular to evaluate the first phase of the drawdown and provide “a clear plan and timetable” for the remainder.
Noting Somalia’s “progress” against the Al-Qaeda affiliate, the resolution expresses “grave concern that the terrorist group Al-Shabaab continues to pose a serious threat to the peace, security, and stability of Somalia and the region.”
“We should not be hasty when it comes to withdrawing the African peacekeeping mission from Somalia,” said Deputy Russian Ambassador Anna Evstigneeva. “Creating a security vacuum is unacceptable.”
Against this backdrop, Somalia again called for an arms embargo to be lifted.
“The partial UN arms embargo on Somalia hinders the federal government of Somalia’s ability to adequately resource its security forces in order to counter the evolving threat of Al-Shabaab,” said Yusuf.
In November, the Security Council renewed the arms embargo in place since 1992. This embargo no longer applies to deliveries of arms for the development of Somali security forces.
However, the UN committee responsible for sanctions must be given notice of such deliveries, and it may object in the case of certain heavy weapons.