The 2021 Somalia elections could complicate plans by the African Union peacekeepers to withdraw its forces in the next two years.
Military experts say that the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) may have to revise its timetable because the next elections — when the country is expected to hold universal suffrage (the right to vote of all adults) after 52 years — is too important to be conducted without substantial security.
Amisom was supposed to withdraw 1,000 troops in December this year and another 1,000 in May next year, with the final withdrawal set for the end of 2020.
Amisom has been training and equipping the Somalia National Army (SNA) with the objective of gradually handing over security duties in liberated areas.
But Amisom spokesperson Col Wilson Rono, told The EastAfrican that the 2018 timelines could be reviewed to accommodate the elections.
“The UN Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council must review the security situation after every batch of withdrawal and give a go-ahead for the next. Furthermore, the withdrawal timetable is dependent on whether the SNA will meet all the preconditions,” he said.
The pre-conditions include Amisom, with the support of the UN and other donors like the US, training and equipping at least 30,000 SNA troops to take over from the peacekeepers.
Amisom has already trained and verified over 10,000 SNA soldiers who are currently engaged in joint operations in Mirtuugo in Middle Shabelle and Abdali Birole, in Lower Jubba.
The mission still needs an additional 28,000 troops to free the remaining areas under Al Shabaab.
Secondly, the Somalia government, led by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo, must meet the requirements of the Security Pact passed at the London Somalia Conference in May.
The pact includes securing recovered areas and main supply routes before the 2021 elections with the support of international partners, and a political agreement between the Central government and the five states on how to co-ordinate security.
According to the AU Special Representative to Somalia Francisco Madeira, Amisom is ready to work closely with SNA to realise the country’s security priorities, but the input of local communities will be key in stabilising Somalia.