After one and a half-decade of operation, the African Union Mission in Somalia, Amisom, will, starting end of this month, transition to the African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).
ATMIS, which still needs approval from the United Nations Security Council, will in the next two years be charged with stabilising Somalia with a clear end goal of transferring full responsibilities of national security to the Federal Government of Somalia, according to the Africa Union Security said.
The time frame and Concept of Operations (CONOPs) for the new mission will be adopted by the AU Peace and Security Council later this month, and by the UN Security Council before March 31, 2022, which is the definitive end date of Amisom’s mandate in Somalia.
At a meeting attended by African Union diplomats and top officials of the Federal Government of Somalia held in Mogadishu this week, Somalia and the African Union emerged finally reading from the same script, on the country’s future security arrangement.
The top agenda, to which both parties agreed to was that the next two years should be focused on rebuilding the country’s ground and air forces, the intelligence and security-related institutions in preparation for their takeover of the country’s overall security.
In Mogadishu, the impression was that both the AU and the FGS initially at loggerheads on the future of Amisom, have now resolved to work together on the transition.
Nigerian diplomat Bankole Adeoye who is the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, told a news conference on Monday that ATMIS will be different from Amisom because although it will retain combat active troops, it will also have a significant team of technocrats to draw up the country’s recovery from years of war.
“ATMIS is 100 percent aligned with the Somalia Transition Plan. This means that the strategy of the government of Somalia and the objective of ATMIS will be aligned. This is the number one factor that will make a difference,” Mr Adeoye said, referring to the need to prevent a vacuum in the fight against terrorists, even as the partners build a full transition by end of 2023.
This common vision by the AU and Somalia eliminates the one hurdle that had emerged last year, forcing the UN Security Council to extend the mandate of Amisom by three months to the end of this March.
At that time, Somalia and the AU had disagreed on whether to extend the mandate of Amisom or simply pull the plug on the Mission leaving behind a vacuum. Somalia had always insisted on a transitional mission, which will also be less focused on military components and more on institutional building.
Amisom, created in 2007 to support the fragile government in Mogadishu and secure the country from al-Shabaab terror attacks, has been crucial in Somalia’s relative security, but it was also criticised for failing to defeat the terror group because it had no way of totally dissuading the Somali population from joining the extremists. That effort needs better institutions and economic opportunities.
On Thursday, Mr Adeoye met with President Mohamed Farmaajo where they both agreed that extremism remains a major problem in Somalia, but which should be dealt with in a multi-prong approach.
A brief report released by Villa Somalia after the meeting shows a preliminary agreement had been reached by the Somali leader and the AU official on the transfer of duties from Amisom to ATMIS.
“We trust Somalia’s own forces will assume full responsibility of their country’s security as ATMIS assures transition,” the AU envoy said after the meeting which was also attended by Francisco Madeira, the Special Representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia and Head of Amisom.
The details of who will contribute troops or personnel remain undeclared but it is assumed the current force contributors will retain their soldiers, albeit reduced numbers. The new Mission will then tap into AU members for technocrats, a Somalia government source told The EastAfrican.
Brig Jattani Gula, the new Kenyan troops commander in Somalia will spearhead Kenyan troops transition to ATMIS.
Brig Gula succeeds Brig Jeff Nyagah whose term saw increased collaboration between the Somali National Army (SNA) and Amisom during joint military operations against Al-Shabaab, in training and in restoring peace and normalcy in the region in line with the Amisom mandate.
Under Brig Nyagah’s command, Kenyan troops also embarked on a series of civic-military co-operation projects in a campaign to win the hearts of the community by addressing basic needs of the community such as health, education and farming. This played a big role in improving relationships between the community and Amisom troops.
On Thursday, President Farmaajo hinted that the transition mission will create more opportunities for Somalia’s revival. A dispatch from Villa Somalia quotes him: “I can assure you that the transition mission, ATMIS, will offer additional ways for Somalia to upgrade its forces, be the military, the police, the intelligence agency and other state institutions to enable us assume full responsibility of the country and its people’s security.”
Nonetheless, challenges abound ahead.
At a recent public event, Hassan Ga’aliye, the Director-General of the Ministry of Defence, admitted that the two years of transition will mean that Somalia concentrates on all divisions of the Somali National Army (SNA) to ensure that security demands are met.
On the security transition plan, he said; “We shall make certain that the SNA will assume all security engagements including the defeat of the extremists.” He was addressing the commanders of officers of the SNA on the occasion of the 62nd anniversary of the Somali Air Force on February 15.
On Tuesday, Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble met with commanders of Somalia’s security forces including the SNA, the Somali Police Force and the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) and officers representing Amisom.
PM Roble underlined the need for closer collaborations between the Somali forces and the AU peacekeepers in the fight against terrorists, especially in the course of the election season.
“As you had done in the past, the government and the public are looking for continued closer co-operation, particularly as the country is concluding election of legislators and looking forward to the election of Somalia’s president,” said the premier, noting that the bigger tasks lay ahead as Amisom transforms into ATMIS.
Commenting on the state of the security agencies, Brig-Gen Mohamed Sheikh Ali Mohamoud, also known as Dable-Baylood said, “Somalia’s Air Force has not recovered from the aftermath of the central government’s collapse in 1991, plus the 30-year arms embargo on the country imposed by the United Nations,” hinting that the country cannot defeat terrorists without a combined land and air power.
One way is to first professionalise leadership of these agencies. Currently, commanders of Somalia’s army divisions are doing internal reorganisation. The SNA’s Danab, Gorgor and Duufaan (Lightning, Eagle and Storm divisions) are becoming more professional as they get advanced trainings both at home and abroad. Even the almost non-existent SNA Air Force is aspiring to rebuild said the commander.