Why Somalia requested UN to delay Atmis exit

Sunday September 24 2023

Atmis had by mid-July handed over six forward operating bases to the Somalia security agencies. PHOTO | POOL


The Somali federal government has changed its mind on security plan after realisation that the departure of African Union Transition Mission (Atmis) troops could worsen Mogadishu’s ability to guard itself.

According to a formal request placed before the United Nations Security Council this week, Mogadishu wants the AU to delay the ongoing troops drawdown from the country, an apparent acknowledgement that such a move could leave security gaps.

Under the drawdown schedule, some 3,000 Atmis forces were to leave Somalia at the end of this month, in a continuing withdrawal meant to last until December 2024.

On September 19, Mogadishu wrote to the UN to request that UN Security Council-mandated Atmis hold off the drawdown by at least three months.

Read: Somalia asks UN to delay Atmis drawdown

“The Federal Government of Somalia formally requests a technical pause in the drawdown of the 3,000 African Union Transition Mission in Somalia uniformed personnel by three months as outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 2687 (2023).


This request arises from our compelling need to address significant challenges revealed by the Joint Technical Assessment report, which lays out profound implications for the security transition in Somalia,” reads the letter signed by Hussein Sheikh Ali, Somalia’s National Security Adviser, and addressed to Ferit-Hoxha, the September President for the UN Security Council.

Based on this, sources told The EastAfrican that in their assessment, the authorities in Mogadishu want to prevent an avoidable security vacuum at some of the bases that Atmis forces were vacating or closing, which included strategic government institutions and regional offices.

The 3,000 soldiers staying put for another three months impacts an already drawn and agreed operational, feeding and peacekeepers’ budget. This will affect salaries, wear and tear of contingent-owned weapons and materiel, which the troop contributing countries and the mission funders like the UN and the European Union hoped would cease at the end of this month.

Atmis was due to hand over five forward operating bases (FOBs), including State House, Parliament, Kismayo Old Airport, Dhusamareb and Bio Cadale, while another four bases, namely, Salile, Burhashi, Regase and Qorilow, were to be permanently closed.

"All troops that were on standby to withdraw will now stay put in their bases," sources said.

Read: Talks start on second phase of Atmis drawdown from Somalia

This surprise turnaround comes just days after the peacekeeping mission had handed over Bio Cadale FOB forward operating base in HirShabelle State on September 17 — the first of nine that were to be vacated during this phase two of the troop's withdrawal exercise.

During the handover, the Atmis Bio Cadale FOB Commander Lt-Col Philippe Butoyi said the transfer of security responsibility was a testament to Somalia’s leadership in rebuilding the country, protecting the population, and ensuring security and stability.

“We have witnessed developments on the battlefield where Somali Security Forces have demonstrated their increasing capability to securing the country. We have seen the forces attack, seize and hold ground,” Lt-Col Butoyi said.

He added that, “professionally trained and well-equipped Somali Security Force are game changers in the fight against terrorism in Somalia.”

Bio Cadale FOB was manned by soldiers from the Burundi National Defence Forces.

Yet, as the withdrawal started, some 11 Somali government soldiers were killed on September 18, and three others injured in a roadside explosion which targeted a convoy of military vehicles in the southwestern Gedo region.

On June 30, Atmis concluded the first phase of the drawdown of 2,000 troops, but one of the lessons learnt from it was the many deadly attacks that Al Shabaab terrorists mounted on Somalia security forces after the peacekeepers handed over bases.

In the meantime, Atmis is in limbo; the mission was prepared to shed 3,000 troops on September 30. Now, the force ponders whether to proceed with the exercise that was already underway by the time the Somali government wrote to the UNSC or wait for the decision of discussions going on elsewhere.

Read: Keeping Somalia peace after AU peacekeepers withdrawal

Atmis Spokesperson Gifty Bingley said the Mission will give a public statement once discussions at the “highest levels” are held.

Atmis is mandated by the UN Security Council even though it is a creation of the African Union.

Somalia says its forces have been engaged in a wide-scale offensive against the Al Shabaab.

Mogadishu also tabled what it describes as “the pressing logistical concerns and resource gaps confronting the Somali Security Forces”, saying as the Somalia National Armed Forces undertakes increased responsibilities, there is a burgeoning demand for logistical support.

While the existing logistics support is, it falls short due to the ongoing escalated operational tempo in countering Al Shabaab.