Exit of AMISOM: Consolidating Gains and Charting New Trajectories in the African Union Presence in Somalia

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) was a child of necessity, birthed in the context of an exacerbated Somali conflict and the emergence of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in 2006 as the dominant force in the fight for the control of Mogadishu. Thus, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Peace Support Mission in Somalia (IGASOM), originally conceived as a protection and training Mission by both IGAD and the AU to be deployed to Somalia in 2006, gave way to AMISOM, via the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) Communique, of 19 January 2007. To underscore the oneness of purpose between the AU and the United Nations (UN) on the matter, the UN Security Council (UNSC), through Resolution 1744 of 2007 endorsed the PSC decision and authorised the deployment of the Mission in Somalia.

AMISOM’s original mandates & its evolution

Paragraph 8 of the 2007 AU PSC Communique mandated AMISOM to, amongst others:

“(i) provide support to the TFIs in their efforts towards the stabilisation of the situation in the country and the furtheranceof dialogue and reconciliation, (ii) facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance, and (iii) create conducive conditions for long-term stabilisation, reconstruction and development in Somalia’

The UNSC mirrored the mandate of the AU through its Resolution 1744 of February 2007.

Although the mandates of AMISOM have evolved over the years, the obligations to protect Federal institutions and help them carry out their functions of Government, support dialogue and reconciliation, protect civilians, critical infrastructure and sensitive sites, facilitate the provision of humanitarian supplies and support stabilisation activities, have remained recurrent themes of the AMISOM mandate.

Achievements of AMISOM

As AMISOM begins its terminal drawdown and exit from Somalia, it is fit and proper to outline, within the constraints of an Op-Ed of this nature, some of its key achievements:

  • AMISOM was vital in protecting the transitional Government and the ensuing Somali Federal Governments;
  • AMISOM has degraded Al Shabab and pushed the bulk of its forces from Mogadishu and from all other liberated areas across the sectors;
  • AMISOM helped expand humanitarian access and provided various forms of relief to a significant number of Somalis;
  • Side by side with the Somali Security forces, AMISOM still provides the security foundation on which all other international actors depend in order to operate in Somalia in relative safety.

On the eve of AMISOM deployment to Somalia in 2007, south central Somalia was in the throes of various entities and warlords laying claim to different parts of the country. Repeated outbreaks of conflicts in Mogadishu resulted in the death of many civilians and displacement of others. Indeed, most of the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFI), including the Transitional Federal Parliament, were based outside Mogadishu, in Baidoa town, 80 km to the west. For these reasons, therefore, some of the most visible, stabilising, and far-reaching achievements of AMISOM have been the recapture of various swathes of territory hitherto under the control of Al-Shabaab (AS) and various other Armed Opposition Groups (AOGs) and the expansion of territorial space in which the Government and its institutions could project their authority, continue dialogue and reconciliation efforts and carry out their functions of government.

After the initial standoff between AMISOM and the AOGs in 2007-2010 (due, largely, to issues surrounding predictable logistical support to the Mission and the limited number of AMISOM troops), from 2010, AMISOM began the process of capturing cities and towns then under the control of AS. The following major offensive operations were undertaken: Panua Eneo (2011); Free Shabelle, Eagles (March 2014), Indian Ocean (November 2014), Ocean Build (Nov 2014-July 2015), Juba Corridor (July 2015), Badbaado 1a and 1b (2018-2019). These operations led to the recovery of vast majority of towns and cities in Somalia, allowing governance, economic, social, and political activities to thrive in the country.

AMISOM also made significant contributions to the capacitation of the Somali Police Force (SPF) through institutional and individual capacity building of the SPF by way of training, mentoring, advising, and initiating Quick Impact Projects (QIPs). The SPF has benefitted and continue to benefit from operational support from the component via joint patrols and securing various elections. AMISOM efforts in this regard has led to an improved law and order situation and enhancement of collaboration between the Police and Somali communities.

Whilst the recovery of the towns and cities listed above grabbed headlines, they were indeed means to loftier ends. The desired end state of the AU in Somalia has always been to help bring peace and stability to the country, promote dialogue, reconciliation and inclusivity and consolidate progress towards achieving a secure, united, peaceful, democratic and developed country, with empowered and accountable Somali Security Forces (SSF) capable of taking full responsibility for national security and the protection of the country and its citizens. To this extent, therefore, what happened after recoveries is arguably more critical than the recoveries themselves. AMISOM has played important roles in various political, reconciliation and state building processes, culminating in the creation of additional Federal Member States (FMS) in Galmudug, Hirshabelle, South-West and Jubaland together with the establishment of Banadir Regional Administration in the Mogadishu municipality. AMISOM has supported relevant line ministries through a good number of institutional capacity building activities, Quick Impact Projects, gender mainstreaming, protection issues and guidance on International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law. AMISOM activities in this regard have further consolidated Somalia’s drive towards state building and federalism and the bringing of dividends of democracy closer to the people at the grassroots levels.

Challenges & Lesson Learnt for the New Mission

Despite the successes of AMISOM, considerable challenges have hindered its operations, which should, and are attracting the attention of the AU, UN, the FGS and partners as they plot the course of a replacement Mission for AMISOM.

The enhancement of the ‘AMISOM Model’ to suit a transition Mission engaged in asymmetric war fighting

The ‘AMISOM Model’ puts the UN ‘Regional Arrangement’ principle and complementarity into practice whereby the AU, which provides troops and other human resources for AMISOM, is able to access the UN Assessed Contribution for the provision of logistical support to AMISOM through UNSOS, whilst the EU pays the stipends of AMISOM uniformed personnel and salaries of its civilian component. Over the years, AMISOM and the UN leadership have managed to forge a relationship of mutual understanding to discharge their respective mandates. Yet, challenges of dispensing logistical supplies in a big theatre of operations like Somalia, remain. Sustainable solutions ought to be found to this issue in a prompt, efficient and suitable manner, for the coming Mission.

Provision of appropriate level of enablers and multipliers to enhance operational efficiency of the new Mission

Over the years, AS has demonstrated resilience and uncanny capacity to adapt and reinvent itself. Unlike in its earlier incarnation, its modus operandi over the last 8 years or so, has been to engage AMISOM and SNA troops in asymmetric warfare, especially through the laying of IEDs (their weapon of choice) on Main Supply Routes and carrying out kinetic operations in built-up locations, leading to civilian casualties. To mitigate this, the new Mission must enhance its counter IED capability, its ability to collect and process information, and its capacity to apply the elements of speed and surprise when acting on real time actionable intelligence availed. Right type and adequate quantity of enablers and multipliers will be required to give the Mission’s armed component the flexibility, agility and mobility it needs to succeed in its targeted and other planned operations.

Importance of force generation

The Government is working on the imperative of having accountable, acceptable, capable and professional Somali National Security Forces to take over security responsibilities from the AU troops. The FGS has put together such key documents as the ‘Somali Compact’, the Somalia ‘National Security Architecture’ and the ‘Somalia Transition Plan’(STP). All these documents, and others, have, as part of their key provisions, the need for force generation and professionalisation of the SNA. The achievements made around force generation should be consolidated over the next few months, so that transfer of security responsibly to SSF is achieved within the projected timeframe of the new Mission.

Multiplied effort must be mobilised to ensure that the successful implementation of the Somalia Transition Plan through the current multipronged and integrated approach, is effectively achieved and leads to a gradual but steady transfer of full security responsibilities to the Somali authorities as they continue to enhance the capacity of Somali Security Forces to hold, protect, preserve and expand the territorial gains so far accumulated. Efforts towards state consolidation through institutional capacity building expansion of stabilisation activities and extension of state authority through inclusive politics and reconciliation should make for a transition that we all aim for.

The Somali problem is complex and political in nature, clearly requiring a comprehensive and multifaceted approach and intervention to solve. The effectiveness of the New AU Mission in Somalia will, to a large extent, depend on its ability to harness synergies and enhance its capacity to intervene in support of this effort. Securing assured, adequate and predictable funding for its operations, continued presence and access to suitable equipment is pivotal.

Transition is a complex process. The friends of Somalia and all the stakeholders involved in helping the country recover peace and achieve reconciliation and development, must remain focused, pull together complementarily and united in their common purpose. There should be a clear division of labour, transparency in the implementation of tasks and commitments, improved coordination and coherence, enhanced information sharing and mutual accountability.

Ambassador Francisco Caetano Madeira is the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and Head of Mission of AMISOM. He tweets at @AmbFMadeira

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