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Could the Al Shabaab be running scared even as Amisom mandate ends in March?

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By FRED OLUOCH Special Correspondent

Posted  Saturday, January 12  2013 at  19:20

In Summary

  • Amisom has made great progress in its efforts to return Somalia to normalcy and is currently consolidating its gains in areas it is controlling.
  • Al-Shabaab still controls large parts of central Somalia such as Bay and Bakool, but the militants are currently finding it difficult to get suppliers, besides evading the occasional American drone strikes.
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A recent announcement by the Al Shabaab that it plans to move its base to semi-autonomous Puntland could indicate that the militants are on the run.

Those close to the operations of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) say that the force has made great progress in its efforts to return Somalia to normalcy and is currently consolidating its gains in areas it is controlling.

Al-Shabaab still controls large parts of central Somalia such as Bay and Bakool, but the militants are currently finding it difficult to get suppliers, besides evading the occasional American drone strikes.

Recently, the militants attacked Puntland forces in Bossaso, the region’s main port town, 1,500 kilometres northeast of Mogadishu, applying a hit and run tactic.

Those familiar with Al Shabaab operations say that ever since the group lost many important districts and regional capitals in the southern and central regions of Somalia, the militants have been focusing on Puntland, an area mainly made up of mountain ranges and formidable hideouts for insurgents.

Puntland is generally not under anyone’s control and the Al Shabaab are hoping to use the area to re-group.

But Colonel Ali Aden Houmed, the Amisom Force spokesperson told The East African that Al Shabaab is known for chest-thumping.

But, he maintained that Amisom will stick to its mandate and can only extend its operations to Puntland with the permission of the African Union and with the request of the Somali government.

A quiet war front

Kenya Defence Forces spokesperson, Col Cyrus Oguna, conceded that the war front has gone quiet in the recent past because the Al Shabaab has been dismantled, but Amisom has to remain in place because the institutions to take over security matters are still not yet in place.

With the current mandate of Amisom ending in early March, a delegation of AU commissioners held discussions with the Somalia government in Mogadishu to evaluate the Amisom mandate.

“The review of Amisom and the implementation of its mandate serves to determine how best the mission can further contribute to the stabilisation of Somalia and the successful implementation of the priorities set by the Somali government, in close co-ordination with an empowered and restructured National Somali defence and security sector,” said Eloi Yao, Amisom senior public information officer.

Since the nature of the Somali government changed from transitional to permanent late last year, the AU wants to review the mandate of the peace keepers in Somalia.

On the other hand, the new Somali government is also looking at identifying the benefits of the continued presence of Amisom; the challenges peacekeepers are facing and how the Somali people perceive the continued presence of Amisom.

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