Somalia rejects AU ideas to downsize peacekeepers | Voice of America


The Somali government has formally rejected the African Union’s recommendations for a reduced peacekeeping presence in the Horn of Africa country, calling a report and its proposals “devoid of reality.”

“The experts who conducted the assessment did not consult sufficiently with the Somali federal government,” Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdirizak told VOA Somali, saying the government informed the AU of its position last week. “Report and options are not good options at this point.”

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has provided peacekeepers to Somalia since March 2007, mainly to protect the Somali government, and subsequently assisted Somali forces in dislodging al-Shabab militants linked to al-Qaida from all major cities. Five AU countries – Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti – contribute to the current strength of 19,400 troops. The mission costs hundreds of millions a year, according to the IPI Global Observatory.

Reduce, reconfigure the presence

But AU officials, concerned about funding, have sought to downsize and reconfigure the peacekeeping posture. In April, Somali officials agreed to take the lead in security responsibilities by the end of the year.

In a report dated May 30, an AU assessment team offered four options. His preferred first recommendation would be a hybrid African Union / United Nations mission, with a mix of police (50%), military (35%) and civilians (15%). The AU report did not specify the size of the troops but recommended a gradual reduction.

The UN, which conducted its own assessment earlier this year, has not called for a hybrid mission. Instead, he recommended that AMISOM reconfigure and modify its mission – the AU team’s second option.

FILE – Peacekeepers from the Burundian Mission of the African Union in Somalia (AMISOM) stand in formation during a ceremony as they prepare to leave the Jaale Siad military academy after being replaced by the military Somali woman in Mogadishu, Somalia, February 28, 2019.

The two remaining options for the AU team were the deployment of an East African standby force or the exit of AMISOM from the country. The report’s authors said the latter could be accomplished in six months, but warned of a hasty exit.

Earlier this year, the United States withdrew most of its troops, repositioning them elsewhere in East Africa. It resumed military airstrikes against al-Shabab militants in Somalia on July 20, after a six-month lull.

The AU report criticized the Somali government and federal member states, saying their failure to address issues of constitutional review and power and resource sharing contributed to the challenges of stabilizing the country.

“Somali political actors do not respect their own agreements; political actors show deference to the clan rather than the federal constitutional order, ”the report said.

Abdirizak, the foreign minister, said his government had devised a Somali Transition Plan (STP) “which ultimately transfers security responsibilities to Somalis.” It is a plan where the security leaders will take their views and their orders from the Somali side. This is the best way to transfer security responsibilities from AMISOM to Somali security responsibilities. “

But, he complained, “none of the four [AU] the options currently presented mention STP.

AMISOM did not respond to VOA’s request for an official interview.

Lack of coordination

The AU assessment came amid new reports of poor communication and coordination between the African Union and Somali military leaders. But several AMISOM and Somali government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, spoke of tensions between Somali Brigadier General Odawaa Yusuf Rageh and Lieutenant General Diomede Ndegeya, commander of the AU forces in Somalia.

“There is composure between the two,” said a senior AU official in Mogadishu, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The differences between Rageh and Ndegeya – who both declined VOA’s requests for interviews – are believed to have originated in a military operation by the Somali National Army (SNA) against al-Shabab in the Middle Shabelle region. The military reported that the six-week operation, which began on May 23, achieved its objectives by wiping out al-Shabab from a large rural area and killing more than 100 militants.

A soldier from the Ugandan People's Defense Force (UPDF), a member of the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers, is seen during a…
FILE – A Ugandan People’s Defense Force soldier, a member of the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers, is seen on a night patrol in Mogadishu, Somalia on 5, 2017.

The senior AU official said that although AMISOM soldiers are operating in the area, Rageh has not briefed them on the Somali military operation.

The senior AU official said there was no collaborative planning. He suggested that Rageh “wanted to show his ability to perform missions even without AMISOM, and that backfired.”

The AU official said that halfway through the operation, Rageh asked AMISOM for air support – which he was denied.

Rageh “wanted helicopters to be used to fire” at al-Shabab positions in a wooded area but “they did not have enemy coordinates; they had no clear information about the enemy, ”who has anti-aircraft guns, the AU official said.

Colonel Ali Hashi Abdinur, spokesman for the Somali army, denied the tensions between the commanders. “The cooperation is going very well. There is no dispute, ”he said.

Conflict over mobile forces

Abdirizak said his government wanted AU forces to play a supporting role, with a timely transfer of security responsibilities to Somali forces. He calls on AMISOM to provide mobile forces to fight alongside Somali troops.

On Monday, Somali security forces captured two key areas in central Galmudug state. They were led by US-trained commandos called the Danab Brigade – super-fast mobile forces capable of operating on multiple fronts. Somali government officials say AMISOM operations must be modeled after Danab’s mobile operations.

But the senior AU official said AMISOM has been unable to provide mobile support as it is burdened with managing several forward operating bases for which Somalia has not taken responsibility. .

When the Somali army called for a mobile force, “we said, ‘You are the same who tied our hands,'” the senior AU official said.

The lack of coordination is not surprising, said Samira Gaid, national security expert.

“At the end of the day, we are on two different clocks,” said Gaid, who served as security adviser to former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire.

Gaid warned that poor communication could breed mistrust and undue tension between two entities supposed to work together.

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