Africa Union troops in Somalia to withdraw next year despite security challenges
London, November 13, 2018 (AltAfrica)-The African Union Mission in Somalia, (AMISON)is going ahead with plans to withdraw its troops in February next year despite reservations from some troops-contributing countries
In a recent workshop in Nairobi, Amisom top brass, representative of Somalia government and African Union developed a document that will provide an effective framework for the gradual transition of security responsibilities to Somali institutions.
Known as the Concept of Operations (CONOPs), the document will guide Amisom’s activities and operations for the 2018-2021 period, marking the final phase of the transition and eventual exit from Somalia.
Francisco Madeira, special representative of the AU and civilian head of Amisom, said that CONOPs was an important undertaking because it marked a crucial step in the efforts to stabilise Somalia.
“We have made progress despite challenges and we are proud of that progress, “said Mr Madeira
But Gen Adan Mulata, Kenya’s Assistant Chief of Defence Forces in charge of Operations, Doctrine and Training, said that while the document was intended to place Somalia on the path to recovery and an Amisom exit is inevitable, stakeholders should consider the conditions on the ground.
“The country has to be left in the hands of people capable of pursuing peace and recovery,” he noted.
“Let us talk about meaningful change in Somalia, not blame-games and fault-finding,” added Gen Mulata.
The document which must to be approved by AU and senior defence officials of troops-contributing countries, looks at Amisom’s transition plan vis-à-vis the political and security situation in the country.
According to Amisom spokesperson, Col Richard Omwega, the CONOPS focuses on the implementation of Somalia Transition Plan and reconfiguration of the military in preparation for conditional handover of security responsibility to Somalia security forces, and opening and securing of main supply routes in the country in a prioritized order.
“Other key issues it addresses includes capacity building of Somali citizens and stabilization programmes to enhance and sustain peace and security as the country gets ready for 2020 general elections based on the principle of one person one vote,” he said.
Col Omwega, however added that condition based draw-down of military forces by end of February 2019 will still take as stipulated in UN Resolution 2431.
There were previously 22,126 troops from the five TCCs; Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Burundi and Djibouti. Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Zambia have also contributed police contingents to Amisom.
However due to reduced and irregular funding, the UN Security Council Resolution 2372 issued in 2017 had instructed Amisom to reduce its uniformed personnel to a maximum 21,626 in readiness for a full pull-out in 2020.
The first withdrawal; of 1,040 started in December 2017 and a further reduction of similar number was set for October this year.
However, this has not been pushed to next year could be adjusted again if the TCCs managed to convince the UN Security Council. The second phase of withdrawal was set for December but has since been pushed to February next year.
In July, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres , wrote to the Security Council advising that said plans to cut Amisom troops were not realistic, especially after the biggest terror attack in Mogadishu in October last year in more than 500 people died.
Kenya and Uganda has not been keen on leaving Somalia before the country is stabilised. Kenya, for instance, is concerned that a premature withdrawal could re-energise Al Shabaab to start attacking the country after almost two years without major attack.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta for most of this year has been critical of the withdrawal as “unfortunate timing” and that the UN and AU should be practical because the Somalia National Army and other security agencies are not yet ready to take on full responsibility for security.
Uganda on the other hand has issued a proposal to donors that would enable its troops to remain in Somalia under a new arrangement provided there are funded.
Amisom, deployed to Somalia in 2007, has been struggling due to reduced and irregular funding.
While Amisom continues to receive financial, logistic and equipment support from multilateral donors, the reduction of the European Union $200 million annual stipend to Amisom troops by 20 percent has affected some of its operations.