2017 was hugely successful but challenges still lurk, says AU Special Representative for Somalia

Nairobi, 21 December 2017 – The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) Ambassador Francisco Madeira has described 2017 as hugely successful year in the fight against the Al-Shabaab but cautioned that there were challenges facing the transition from the multinational force to Somali security forces.

The SRCC named the successful conclusion of the electoral process that saw a new Parliament and Senate, culminating in the election of a new president as some of the milestones achieved by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in 2017.

Addressing a media briefing in Nairobi this morning, Ambassador Madeira said some of the challenges AMISOM faces include the dearth in funding and uncoordinated training of Somali security forces by different partners.

“The reality is, AMISOM and Somali security forces face major challenges due to unpredictable funding. Without funding, little can happen to move forward with certain undertakings already made on the security front,” said the SRCC who is also the head of AMISOM.

He said in 2018 AMISOM will require funding to recover territory under the control of Al-Shabaab, to enhance the capacity of Somali security forces to take over from AMISOM troops, and to integrate the Somali National Army (SNA).

“Militarily, subject to logistical support, we are planning elaborate offensive operations mainly in the Jubba valley, Gedo region and Middle Jubba regions which still harbor pockets of Al-Shabaab militants,” the SRCC noted.

Ambassador Madeira said this was part of AMISOM’s exit strategy to ensure that it liberates the entire country and hands it to Somali security forces. He called for synchronized training of the Somali National Army to establish a strong force capable of defending the country once AMISOM exits.

“The training of the army must be synchronized and centred upon a common doctrine and ideology. Currently, there are too many stakeholders involved in the training of security forces, without a harmonized plan as indicated in the operational readiness assessment,” the SRCC observed.

He noted that AMISOM’s exit (drawdown) had already started with about 1000 soldiers set to go home by the end of this month and an equal number will depart next year in accordance with the United Nations and the African Union recommendation on a gradual and phased re-organization of the Mission.

Ambassador Madeira however lamented the lack of resources to support AMISOM troops in executing their mandate.

“In a nutshell, we need urgent support. Our troops are ready but they need to be resourced. This has not been happening to expectation despite repeated commitments by partners in different forums,” the head of AMISOM noted.

He added that the multinational force was building capacity of the Somalia security forces so that when they exit, terror groups do not take over the liberated territories.

“We are planning to hand over to a properly capacitated Somali National Army at least 10 Forward Operating Bases next year as part of the transition. Discussions are ongoing with the Federal Government on modalities of this hand over,” the SRCC said.

Ambassador Madeira mentioned three pillars necessary in strengthening Somalia’s national security, namely, sustainable security reform, inclusive and stable politics and economic recovery.

He warned that jihadists fleeing from Libya, Yemen, and Syria were changing the dynamics of Somalia war, making it imperative that the transition should be well managed.

The Mission, whose mandate ends on May 31 after 10 years restoring peace in this Horn of Africa nation, is gradually scaling down its military operations, in what is called “drawdown”. According to the UN Security Council Resolution 2372 (2017), the Federal Government of Somalia will progressively take over AMISOM’s responsibilities.