Mogadishu (HOL) – The African Union Peace and Security Council (PSC) will virtually convene its 993rd session on Thursday to discuss the ongoing political crisis in Somalia.
The emergency session, which convened at 10:00 am EAT, was not previously scheduled on the Council’s monthly programme.
Mohammed Idriss Farah, Djibouti’s Permanent Representative and Interim PSC Chairperson for April 2021 is expected to address the Council along with Francisco Madeira, the Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson (SRCC).
Somalia’s Foreign Minister, Mohamed Abdirizak, is also expected to brief the Council.
The PSC is the “standing decision-making organ of the AU,” which aims to resolve conflicts on the continent. It wields significant power, and the AU calls it the building block of their African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). Among its capabilities, the PSC can impose sanctions whenever it deems an unconstitutional change of government takes place and coordinate peace efforts with the various regional mechanisms within the AU.
The PSC has 15 members with equal voting powers.
At the top of the agenda for the PSC is the controversial term extension granted to Somalia’s President, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, by the Lower House of Parliament on April 12. The decision was widely opposed – even before it happened – and has lurched the country further into a political crisis. Within days of the extension, cracks within Somalia’s fragile security sector began to emerge.
The PSC will likely be concerned about the tense situation in Mogadishu and call on all participants from refraining from actions that could potentially fan the flames.
The African Union had previously joined other members of the international community – including the UN and EU – in voicing their concern about the worrying developments in Somalia and have urged Somalia’s stakeholders to return to the negotiating table with the September 17 agreement as the basis of all talks. The PSC may examine the mandate extension and determine whether it amounts to an unconstitutional change of government which would violate Article 23 (5) of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
President Farmajo’s administration will likely argue that it is not a term extension but rather a temporary legal vehicle to permanent popular elections. The government has said that the extension will provide the opportunity to implement any of the options proposed by Somalia’s electoral board in June 2020.
The mandate for Somalia’s legislative and presidential elections expired in December 2020 and February 2021, respectively.
It is expected that the PSC will call on IGAD to assist in facilitating talks and urge stakeholders to commit to dialogue.
Farmajo travelled to Kinshasa over the weekend, where he requested the African Union facilitate talks with political opponents and various stakeholders. While meeting with the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Felix Tshisekedi, who is also the 2021 African Union Chairperson, Farmajo advocated for “African solutions for African problems” during his one-day visit. Somalia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized that any process would remain “Somali-led and Somali-owned.” It is unclear if IGAD or the AU will play a role as external mediators as they facilitate talks between stakeholders.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta told a high-level UN Security Council open debate on Monday that greater cooperation needed to be lent to sub-regional organizations to address the growing number of conflicts in Africa.
The Kenyan leader – who was also in the DRC’s capital this week for talks with his counterpart – said regional and sub-regional organizations have the critical insight that can only be provided by proximity.
On Wednesday, IGAD issued a press release where it said the group “welcomes the proposed (AU) initiative to reopen dialogue among the Somali stakeholders” called on all relevant parties to give the “new initiative a chance.”
The PSC, in previous sessions, expressed grave concern with external meddling in the internal affairs of Somalia and urged external actors to redirect their efforts to support Somalia’s endeavours positively. In recent weeks the Somali government has been critical of statements of disapproval from international partners.
During the 978th PSC session on February 9th – just a day after President Farmajo’s term officially expired – the Council encouraged FGS, FMS and other stakeholders to continue with their ongoing dialogue despite expressing concern that the meetings in Dhusamareb in early February failed to materialize in an electoral deal. The Council acknowledged that a drawn-out political dispute could embolden spoilers.
At the end of the session the Council is expected to issue a communiqué.
*A previous version of this article said that Kenya would address the Council as Chairperson. Uhuru Kenyatta’s monthly tenure was in March 2021.