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Research Report

UN Support to Regional Peace Operations:: Lessons from UNSOA

PAUL D. WILLIAMS
Copyright Date: Feb. 1, 2017
Pages: 28
OPEN ACCESS
https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep09649

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. [i]-[i])
  2. (pp. [ii]-[iii])
  3. (pp. 1-1)
  4. (pp. 2-2)

    On January 16, 2009, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1863 requesting the secretary-general to deliver a logistical support package to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).¹ Shortly thereafter, UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon decided that the package should be delivered through a stand-alone support office overseen by the Department of Field Support (DFS): the UN Support Office for the African Union Mission in Somalia (UNSOA).² UNSOA’s initial package covered “accommodation, rations, water, fuel, armoured vehicles [for AMISOM’s police officers], helicopters, vehicle maintenance, communications, some enhancement of key logistics facilities, medical treatment and evacuation services.”³ In order to deliver these...

  5. (pp. 2-4)

    UNSOA’s origins lie in an earlier and broader debate about how the UN should support AU efforts to increase its conflict management capabilities, including the deployment of peace operations. Since 2006, the UN’s ten-year capacity-building program for the AU had supported institution building and various capabilities for responding to peace and security challenges. The Somali case became particularly important. Although the UN Security Council decided that Mogadishu was not an appropriate place to deploy a UN peacekeeping operation—essentially because there was no peace to keep—the AU sent soldiers. However, it was unable to provide them with appropriate equipment,...

  6. (pp. 4-5)

    It took UNSOA’s vanguard team of seven staff until June 9, 2009, to get security clearance to go to Mogadishu. Shortly thereafter, in August, UNSOA set up its logistical support base in Mombasa by leasing storage space from a commercial provider for a year because the Kenyan government could not find a suitable site in time.19

    As noted above, UNSOA was initially intended to raise AMISOM’s standards so it could transition into a UN peacekeeping operation. However, things turned out rather differently. First, unlike the earlier UN support provided to the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) in 2007, with AMISOM...

  7. (pp. 5-16)

    It was in this uncertain and insecure context that UNSOA began its operations. As it did so, however, it faced at least five major challenges. These revolved around the expanding scope of UNSOA’s mandated tasks; the clash between the UN and the AU’s organizational cultures; the highly insecure operating environment in Somalia; the problems posed by the size of UNSOA’s theater of operations from 2012; and some of the idiosyncrasies of its principal client, AMISOM.

    UNSOA’s first major challenge was that its mandate was repeatedly expanded without a commensurate increase in resources. As the 2015 strategic review of UNSOA noted,...

  8. (pp. 16-18)

    How should UNSOA’s operations be assessed in light of these challenges? Naturally, UNSOA’s own publications provide glowing reviews. Its 2015 handbook, for instance, includes ten brief testimonies praising UNSOA from senior AMISOM military commanders and the head of mission.112

    Other forms of assessment, including by the UN, were mixed. Between 2011 and 2015, for instance, the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services conducted several audits of some aspects of UNSOA’s operations. On the positive side, rations were provided in a timely manner and in the requested quantities, and UNSOA’s risk management, control, and governance processes at the Mombasa support base...

  9. (pp. 18-23)

    Despite massively improving the level of logistical support available to AMISOM, UNSOA struggled to meet the needs of a loose multinational force engaged in sustained maneuver warfare. This was partly because UNSOA was based on UN procedures, mechanisms, and frameworks that were designed for more traditional UN peacekeeping operations in relatively benign environments rather than a war-fighting mission. UNSOA was able to paper over the cracks while AMISOM operated in just one city (Mogadishu). But as the AU forces spread across south-central Somalia, the logistical challenges increased exponentially. This put UNSOA staff in an impossible position and frustrated AMISOM commanders...

  10. (pp. 24-24)