Funding for Somalia’s security forces is becoming one of the major risk factors to stability in the region, as the gradual withdrawal of UN peacekeepers started last week with 1,000 troops.
The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) has not undertaken military operations with the Somali National Army (SNA) in the recent past because of limitations in personnel and equipment.
Francisco Madeira, head of Amisom, told the media in Nairobi on December 21 that the SNA and the police were not ready for the transition and could not be relied on to oversee the country’s security needs in the face of onslaught from a fragmented Al Shabaab.
“The reality is that Amisom and Somalia security forces face major challenges due to unpredictable funding. We are therefore emphasising on a conditions-based transition that does not roll back the gains already made in the security front,” said Mr Madeira.
Top on the list of conditions is that Amisom must conduct the last leg of military operations to liberate territories that remain under the control of Al Shabaab such as Jubba Valley, Gedo and Middle Jubba.
Secondly, the SNA must be fully trained and equipped to be capable of fully taking over the Forward Operating Bases in the six sectors.
The third condition is that the training of the SNA must be harmonised under one doctrine rather than the current situation where different partners are offering training based on their own guidelines.
They are the European Union, Amisom, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and other like Egypt that has a separate bilateral arrangement with the government of Somalia.
During a meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi last week, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni said he would convene a meeting of chiefs of defence forces from troop-contributing countries to discuss progress in the mission.
Thereafter, President Museveni would consider convening a summit of the countries with troops in Somalia.
“The leaders emphasised that it was necessary for the Somali government to continue building and strengthening its national army,” a statement from Kenya’s Presidential Strategic Communications Unit said on December 19 soon after the two leaders’ met. There was no mention of Uganda’s offer to provide 5,000 more troops to the mission.
The designated 1,000 troops selected on a pro rata basis from the five troop contributing countries of Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Ethiopia, withdrew mid-December.
Another 1,000 troops will be withdrawn in May next year. This is in line with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2372 issued in August, in which Amisom — due to reduced funding — was to conduct phased withdrawal programme that will see the slightly over 21,000 Amisom leave Somalia by the end of 2020.
“If the UN says that the numbers must be reduced, we must comply because all the countries are law abiding members. However, it is the AU vision to degrade Al-Shabaab because stabilising Somalia is not only a responsibility of Africa but part of the global war against terror,” said Mr Madeira.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo”, at a recent security conference in Mogadishu to discuss the drawdown, said that all stakeholders must address the critical security gaps, before transitioning security operations and full responsibility to well trained, equipped and supported Somali Security Forces.
The Trump administration in November expressed concern that withdrawal of Amisom troops beyond the first phase of 1,000 could jeopardise security in Somalia if the SNA is not yet ready.
According to Somalia Information Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman, continued international support to build the capacity of Somali security forces and institutions, must take into account the rule of law, respect for human rights and countering violent extremism.
Mr Madeira said that the programme for early 2018 would involve elaborate offensive in Jubba Valley, Gedo Middle Jubba regions to open and secure main supply routes and protect key infrastructure such as bridges.
Amisom will also hand over at least 10 Forward Operating Bases to the SNA as part of the transition and to continue training and mentorship for police to take over public order and shift the focus from the military.
With reduced personnel on the ground, Amisom is now negotiating with partners to offer equipment such as drones, fighter jets and attack helicopters to enable the peacekeepers pre-empt planned Al-Shabaab attacks and scatter them from their strongholds.