The relationship between the Somalia National Army (SNA) and the continental peacekeeping force, Africa Mission to Somalia (Amisom), seems headed for tougher times, as Amisom claimed it was in the dark about the SNA’s recent fights with al-Shabaab in parts of Galmudug state and Hirshabelle, where the militant group had laid siege.
This comes in the wake of an African Union report suggesting a modification, then prolonging of the Mission’s stay.
The events in Galmudug state and Hirshabelle raise questions on the relationship between Amisom’s top command and that of the SNA under Maj-Gen Oduwa Yusuf Rage.
Unlike in the past where both Amisom and the SNA shared and publicised offensives against al-Shabaab, this time around, the SNA was blowing its trumpet on the lone ranger mission. The SNA reported causing “losses, including deaths and destruction” of Shabaab hold-outs in one battle in Mudug region on Sunday.
In the operation led by Turkish-trained Gorgor brigade, they reported killing as many 35 Shabaab fighters in the incident. The Somali force also reported victories, and wresting crucial towns from the militant group, in an operation conducted by US-trained Danab brigade.
On Tuesday, the SNA reported that “al-Shabaab’s worst fears have now come true” after the US conducted an aerial strike in Galmudug State of Somalia. The number of casualties was not indicated, even though Somalia said the strike was meant to protect ground forces.
In Galmudug, the SNA has been working with regional Darwish forces in conducting offensives that had lasted an entire week. Officially, Somalia says 50 militants were killed and 11 bases destroyed in the ongoing operations. Other reports indicate as at least five Somali soldiers were killed.
Amisom did not respond to our inquiries on the nature of co-operation, but on Thursday fronted a united show with the SNA after jointly escorting Hirshabelle State President Ali Abdullahi Hussein Gudlaawe.
A senior official told The EastAfrican there had been “bad communication” between the two sides. “The operation did not involve Amisom. They saw it fit to go it alone. There has been no explanation,” the official said, choosing to remain anonymous because he is not authorised to speak publicly.
These developments could now confirm the assessment by an independent team from the African Union, whose work on the future of Amisom was seriously curtailed as Somali officials refused to meet it.
Writing in the report on Independent Assessment Team on the African Union’s Engagement in and with Somalia post 2021, the team led by South African military officer Maj-Gen Xolani Mankayi lampooned Somalia for lack of co-operation.
The Somalia Federal Government, the report released last week charged, did not respond to inquiries until after the team had finalised the report which “sends a message that African Union involvement in Somalia is not welcomed by the political actors.”
The team, nonetheless, proposed three scenarios under which Amisom could be modified to stay, or have it gradually exit Somalia and transfer the security duties to local forces.
“Any future Amisom exit must be based on the Somalia National Army’s capacity to protect the civilian population, to engage al-Shabaab, to protect Main Supply Routes (MSR) and secure liberated territory,” the report says.
“The AU-IA Team believes that a premature withdrawal of Amisom would lead to a dramatic reversal of the progress achieved in Somalia during the last 14 years.”
AU thinks Somalia’s security forces are themselves torn along political and clan lines, as was witnessed on April 25 when soldiers loyal to President Mohamed Farmaajo took sides against those loyal to opposition politicians. The peace was brokered only after Farmaajo rescinded his move to extend his term by two years.
The report said wrangling between federal states and Mogadishu had contributed to Somalia’s security situation where a delayed constitution, security reforms and a surge in al-Shabaab have added to Somalia’s woes.
This, in addition to Amisom’s lack of capacity, and divergent interests of foreign partners have delayed stabilisation, it said.
Amisom, created in 2007 to help stabilise the then transitional federal government, has its mandate until December 31, 2021, following an extension by the UN Security Council. But the future beyond that is uncertain.
Mohamed Moalimuu, Somalia Government Spokesman said Mogadishu had rejected any suggestion for the prolonged stay of Amisom, even if its mandate were to be modified.
“The Somali Government held an inter-ministerial meeting to discuss the report and has rejected from the outset the report’s finding and recommendations and will issue a formal statement,” Moalimuu said, without clarifying why.
One option proposed there was to fully transition into an AU-UN multidimensional stabilisation mission deployed under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter on threats to global peace and security to provide a “holistic approach, beyond the security and stabilisation process.”
“The nucleus of the security components would be constituted by the contingents currently serving in Amisom, subject to assessment of their capabilities and would be augmented as necessary to respond to the new realities such as the opening of new sectors,” the report said, suggesting that Amisom will provide less of military service and more of humanitarian and political support.
Troop contributing countries; Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Djibouti agreed with this, but called for discussions on certain funding. A technical team of experts from the five countries said in a statement Amisom must modify and stay as “the containment of threats to peace and security in Somalia still existed.”
The AU team also proposed to reconfigure Amisom into an AU multidimensional stabilisation Support for Somalia, which will end the Mission’s role as a combat force by including a stronger political component led by AU but co-ordinating with UN. Financial problems already faced by the AU could harm this changeover, however.
The third choice is for Amisom to turn into a regional standby force, based on AU’s security architecture. Traditionally, such an architecture has taken on standby forces created by regional economic blocs. This means the troop contributing countries could change to be specific from those countries who share a regional bloc with Somalia, as in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. Somalia rejected this too.
However, Somalia has not rejected a similar proposal from an independent team from the UN, which had last year also suggested a modification and continuation of Amisom to be an operation backup for Somalia security forces.