The answer your second question is undoubtedly “yes.” Promising a peacekeeping mission — then not being able to deliver — would be worse than not authorizing one at all. It would be worse for the credibility of the UN Security Council and UN peacekeeping, and it would be much worse for the people of Somalia. My colleagues, Patrick Duplat and Erin Weir, visited Somalia last month and concluded that: “A Security Council mandate that amounts to no more than a symbolic gesture would be one more betrayal in two decades of missed opportunities and broken promises.” Their mission report and related briefing materials also hint towards answers to your first question: Can we take it as a given that a mission to Somalia would be as slow to generate forces as UNAMID, and if so, does that mean we should abandon the whole premise of a UN Peacekeeping mission to Somalia?
The title and contents of their report — Proceed with Caution — suggest that there is an urgent need to proceed, indeed to move forward vigorously with peacemaking processes that deliver substantive results before trying to deploy UN peacekeepers. Positive results from political negations will not come quickly or easily because of the peacemakers’ assumption that the Transitional Federal Institutions constitute a viable, legitimate basis upon which to build a government in Somalia — while many Somalis interviewed by the RI team view the TFG as an illegitimate body propped up by an occupying power (Ethiopia).I don’t think that the idea of a UN peacekeeping mission to Somalia should be abandoned altogether, but I do think that there is indeed a need to proceed with extreme caution — despite the horrendous suffering of ordinary Somali people and the natural humanitarian impulse to do “something.” Again, the Brahimi report (and a couple of decades of bitter experience) point clearly to the limits of what can be accomplished by UN peacekeepers — and to some basic preconditions for their deployment in the first place. The 14 March 2008 Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Somalia also specifies a number of minimal requirements that should be met before Council authorizes an integrated UN mission for Somalia. The most important are viable agreements on political power-sharing, legalization of the economy, laying-down of arms and monitoring of heavy weapons, respect for human rights, facilitation of humanitarian assistance, and development of governing institutions at the central and local levels. The Secretary-General adds that the majority of the parties should state their agreement to the deployment of an integrated United Nations peacekeeping operation and commitment to support the implementation of its mandate.
The last condition will obviously no be met before there is real political compromise and accommodation, and if there are no solid agreements in place, then no member state is likely to step forward and volunteer troops and police towards the recommended total of 28,500 uniformed peacekeepers. Even with the requisite agreements in place, force generation will not be easy. Under his best case scenario, the S-G warns that contingents deploying to Somalia will require protection from an array of direct and indirect fire weapons and IEDs, and that troop contributors would have to come up with armored vehicles, electronic IED countermeasures, EOD capabilities, air reconnaissance assets, well-equipped medical facilities and “a robust quick reaction force to extricate force elements if required.” In addition, the envisaged concept of operations requires transport and attack helicopters and a range of other mission enablers that are as scarce as hens’ teeth, if Darfur is anything to go by.
In short, if UN peacekeeping is to survive a second major test in Somalia, there is a very obvious need to heed past lessons and the S-G’s advice, to take a hard look at present realities, and to observe at least the one Brahimi recommendation I mentioned last week: “The Security Council should leave in draft form resolutions authorizing missions with sizeable troop levels until such time as the Secretary-General has firm commitments of troops and other critical mission support elements, including peace-building elements, from Member States.” These he won’t get, of course, unless there are credible political agreements in place and broad consent among the parties to UN deployment — if not a peace to keep.