Lessons for “Partnership Peacekeeping” from the African Union Mission in Somalia, October 2019

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Paul D. Williams


Deployed to Mogadishu in March 2007, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) operates through a complicated and extensive system of partnerships. It is a crucial example of what the UN secretary-general has called “partnership peacekeeping”—peacekeeping supported by several international organizations, individual states, private firms, and local authorities.

For the African Union (AU), AMISOM is its longest, largest, most expensive, and deadliest peace operation. For the UN, AMISOM remains the organization’s most profound experiment not only with providing logistical support in a war zone but also with partnering on the political front. For the European Union, AMISOM has received by far the largest slice of the African Peace Facility’s funds for stipends and other forms of support. For Somalia’s neighbors, AMISOM was initially a way to avoid deploying their own forces, but since December 2011, all three have contributed forces to the mission. For the United Kingdom and United States, in particular, AMISOM has been a salient example of the challenges of providing security force assistance to a peace enforcement operation. For the Somali authorities, AMISOM has been both a vital source of security and a magnet for international assistance that might have been better focused on building effective indigenous forces.

This complex set of interdependent relationships between multilateral organizations and bilateral partners has been referred to as the “AMISOM model” of partnership peacekeeping (see Figure 1).2 AMISOM’s specific configuration of forces and mechanisms is unlikely to be repeated, in part because it is so complicated. Nevertheless, AMISOM remains the longeststanding case of a peace enforcement operation built on such international partnerships. The mission has also been involved in an extended project to build effective local security forces to facilitate its own exit. However, better local security forces alone will not enable AMISOM’s exit. It requires far more extensive political reconciliation among Somalia’s political elites, something outside the mission’s control.

If the AU and UN are going to continue deploying missions into such difficult environments, AMISOM’s experience offers lessons for how partnership peacekeeping can work better. This report summarizes the main operational-level lessons identified from over a decade of research and numerous publications analyzing AMISOM’s activities.3 Most of these lessons have not yet been truly learned by the actors and organizations in question.