African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) - Photo: issafrica.org
As Somalia struggles with numerous security challenges, there have been quite some promising improvements, namely the ongoing security sector reforms program. It is a Somali-owned and Somali-led initiative, which stands as a testimony to the fact that any effort and program that puts and prioritizes Somali interests at its core is bound to succeed.
Despite the strides and the optimism of the security reform program, we at the Fagaaraha Forum feel that some of the key and crucial partners in the security sector have failed to live up to the Somali people's expectations.
The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) was created by the African Union's Peace and Security Council in January 2007. It is a regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the endorsement of the UN. On February 13, 2007, barely a month after AMISOM was constituted, the United Nations Security Council authorized the African Union to deploy a six-month, mandated peacekeeping mission through resolution number 1744 (2007).
Since then, AMISOM has operated in different parts of South and Central Somalia, specifically in the areas under Al Shabab threat or occupation. AMISOM only had a six-month mandate, but it is now in its 13th year and counting.
AMISOM currently has more than 22,000 active military and police force members. Its current mandate expires on May 31, 2020, but will be extended again.
Performance of AMISOM
AMISOM has undoubtedly contributed to security improvements in Somalia. It has provided much-needed protection to senior government officials and critical government premises and infrastructure. AMISOM has also collaboratively worked with the Somali National Army (SNA) in liberating several districts and major towns in Southern Somalia.
The mission has, in the eyes of the mainstream public, failed in staying true to its original mandate and has fallen short of the high expectations of thirteen years ago. Many districts across South and Central Somalia where AMISOM operates are still under the effective control of Al Shabab. Al Shabab partially controls the Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Hiiraan, Galguduud, Mudug, Gedo, Lower Jubba, and Bakool regions. The government control of AMISOM liberated areas is very tenuous. The whole of the Middle Juba region is under Al Shabab's control. The movement of people and trade is impeded by Al Shabab's grip of vast areas around the liberated towns and districts. The mission has unfortunately morphed into a PR stunt and photo ops. It seems to have primarily prioritized its work to include the distribution of handouts and the holding of endless insignificant workshops to the detriment of its most important mission: flushing Al Shabab terrorists from their strongholds throughout the country.
Worth noting is also AMISOM's lack of transparent accountability mechanisms that provide answers for the allegations made against the mission. Although such cases seem to have radically decreased over the years, many cases have remained open and unaddressed. These cases include indiscriminate civilian killings, rape, and sexual extortions in exchange for favors (mostly medical attention AMISOM run hospitals). Also widely reported is the allegation of Kenyan contingent in AMISOM heavily involved in the illegal charcoal and sugar businesses in Lower Jubba and the coastal city of Kismayo. Most of these cases were followed by empty promises of investigations and accountability by the AMISOM leaders over the years. The African Union failed to include civilian monitors in AMISOM operations to oversee violations.
International donors and partners have invested billions in the AMISOM mission, which claims to field over 22,000 well-equipped troops. Still, sadly, the results on the ground show a meager rate of return on investment of such magnitude. An answer is very wanting: Why is AMISOM still unable to defeat the Al Shabab, a ragtag militia estimated to have less than 8,000 members?
For the last five years, AMISOM has not taken any significant offensives and operations in the areas under Al Shabab, hence giving the terrorists time and space to recuperate and thrive. AMISOM is losing ground and interest in pursuing the terrorists, validating the assertion that it is using Somalia as a cash cow.
The mission has had its ups and downs; its relevance is fast deteriorating and registering little tangible progressive results from a security perspective. As a result, AMISOM has engendered disappointment and disenchantment among intellectuals and the wider Somali public.
Besides, the international partners, who mostly bear the burden of supporting the mission, and the Federal Government of Somalia appear to have failed to hold AMISOM accountable for not fulfilling its original mandate. The current arrangement has shortchanged both the Somali people and the donor community and turned them adrift.
While mindful and appreciative of our brotherly African countries' sacrifices, the international community's support, and the urgent need for stringent accountability on AMISOM concerning the Somali people's interests, the Fagaaraha Forum:
1. Calls upon the AMISOM leadership to live up to the spirit of the mission by diligently delivering on the Somali people's security aspirations and not vying for cheap publicity. The African Union and the international partners should also play a more active role in ensuring that AMISOM fully discharges its responsibilities to help deliver peace to the Somali people.
2. Calls upon frontline countries (Kenya and Ethiopia) to stop interfering and peddling in Somali domestic affairs/politics.
3. Insists that the maritime case between Somalia and Kenya be addressed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) only. Kenya should desist from pursuing other illegal means and, to no small extent, diplomatic bullying to resolve the maritime case. The Somali Federal Parliament should also introduce and pass a law that prohibits any Somali leader from deciding unilaterally on matters related to the territorial integrity of Somalia—in this case, the maritime case.
4. Condemns the Kenyan government, in light of what has happened between the borders of Somalia and Kenya for the last few months, for politicizing border issues and resorting to bullying and aggression. We advise Kenya to alter its behavior and stop politicizing its AMISOM mandate. Kenya should seek common grounds with Mogadishu and respect the territorial integrity of Somalia.
5. Challenges the Somali government to lead and coordinate with AMISOM within the premises of the National Security milestone and to push forward a widescale offensive against Al Shabab in all of Somalia.
6. Underlines the fact that the Somali public demands accountability from AMISOM but also calls upon the Somali Federal Parliament to play their oversight role.
7. Calls upon the Somali people to work with AMISOM not only in the fight against the Al Shabab but also on public outreach issues and to report any cases of civilian casualties and mistreatments (rape/sexual harassment, indiscriminate killings).
8. Strongly calls upon the UN Security Council to lift the arms embargo on Somalia to pave the way for an efficient Somali army that caters to the security needs of Somalia.
9. Encourages the Somali government to closely collaborate with AMISOM and international partners, roll out a feasible and viable transition plan that will smoothly facilitate the exit of AMISOM. The government should, along the way, commit itself in filling the security gaps and improving the capacity of the Somali forces.
10. Brings to attention that Landlocked Ethiopia now has a navy; therefore, the Somalia government must monitor and rigorously remain vigilant of events in the Gulf of Aden and the Somali seas.
We conclude, with a word of thanks to all international partners, who have been assisting Somalia to stand on its own once again, who have helped her to rebuild a professional army and modernize its government and administrative organs. Special thanks to the people and the government of Turkey and the United States of America.
Fagaaraha Forum is a non-profit, nonpartisan 501(c) (3) organization based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, whose mission is to increase public awareness of the issues important to the Somali people. As a leading intellectual forum that promotes peace, and conducts researches in the issues of good governance, elections, conflict resolution, rule of law, justice and human rights. The forum and have been inviting and bringing together speakers and experts to discuss past, current, and future for Somalia since 2012.
For more information, please visit our website at www.fagaaraha.org or email us at [email protected]. You can also follow us on Twitter @fagaarahaforum or directly tweet our director Farah Mohamed Ali (Blue) at @farahblue.