Can AMISOM silence the guns wisely in Somalia?
AMISOM troops killed in a single deadly attack by al-Shaabab. SomaliNet
Uganda’s planned withdrawal of its troops from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) by December 2017 on the grounds of limited logistical and financial support and Africa Union’s admission that its financial coffer is running dry has called for quick strategy to exit Somalia.
“We went there with a view of clearing and getting rid of the terrorism in Somalia, we did not go there to be Somalis. We should re examine the mission and the objective of the mission,” Uganda’s Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem said at the announcement of withdrawals.
In Kenya, soldiers who are part of AMISOM peacekeepers are frustrated after failure to be paid for six months and incessant killings by al-Shaabab. Kenya’s opposition leaders have also capitalized on the assault that led to several deaths of Kenyan and AMISOM soldiers, by threatening to rally public to demand for immediate withdrawal of troops, Daily Nation reported.
The current situation makes it difficult for peacekeepers to capture and consolidate areas, especially in southern part recovered from al-Shabaab hence weakening quest to exercise state’s authority across Somalia. The European Union (EU), the key AU donor for AMISOM, has cut the troop allowance by 20%.
But can the withdrawals be done responsibly?
AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui AU last month announced that AU troops withdrawal will start in October 2018 till December 2020. But before troops leave, he said, AMISOM will conduct a very robust and collective attack at Jubba Valley so as to undermine and reduce al-Shabaab.
In a recent AU’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) report, Chergui noted that since the attacks against al-Shabaab by AMISOM and the Somali National Army (SNA) in 2014 and 2015, most of al-Shabaab’s forces are concentrated in Jubba Valley in southern Somalia hence planned offensive against the extremist group in this part of the country is therefore highly significant.
Chergui added that the AU would also devote a lot of energy to the training of Somali forces ‘to prepare them to take over the responsibility of security in their own country’. “There is no doubt that the PSC’s 2020 exit plan is due to resource challenges and the need for the Somali government to take full control of public services in the country,” he said.
PSC researchers Yann Bedzigui and Ndubuisi Christian Ani, noted in the report that it is not merely about the continued al-Shabaab insurgency or the inability of government forces to ensure stability in the region. An overview of the state of affairs in Somalia shows that the legitimacy of the state project in Somalia largely depends on the support of the international community.
According to the report, there is still a long way to go to consolidate local support for the Somali government. However, as reported by the AU Commission, the security situation in Somalia remains volatile. “A significant portion of Somalia remains under the control of al-Shabaab and the recovery of the entire territory of the country still requires a significant sustained effort.”
“Although AMISOM has made progress in capturing areas from al-Shabaab, the Somali government has thus far been unable to consolidate such gains through the provision of security and services to the recaptured regions. This has led to numerous attacks on AMISOM and al-Shabaab’s retake of recovered areas.
“A number of analysts contend that the international community has imposed its version of a state on locals and that limited ownership of the state project in Somalia continues to foster local allegiance to militant groups such as al-Shabaab,” PSC excerpt.
Although the AU ‘prprioritizes territorial recovery and consolidation’ in the period leading up to 2020, ISS reports, AMISOM and its international partners can only exit responsibly if there is local ownership of the state project in Somalia.