In this Op-ED, Francisco Madeira, Head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), explains the current state of play in the country and why he is hopeful that by 2021, Somali Security Forces will be in full control and take over all AMISOM responsibilities.
On 30 April 2018, the African Union Peace and Security Council (AU PSC) endorsed the Somalia Transition Plan (STP). Since then, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has continued to register progress in implementing its mandate, guided by the transition plan.
The Somalia Transition Plan is a comprehensive guide developed by the Federal Government of Somalia and its partners to the transfer of security responsibility to Somali National Security Forces ahead of AMISOM’s anticipated exit in 2021.
As a key player in the Somalia security sector, AMISOM has made tremendous progress in implementing key programmes and activities since 2018, when we commenced implementation of the first phase of the transition. Important targets that we set out to achieve as part of our Somalia exit strategy are being completed, with over five Forward Operating Bases handed over and the intensification of the training and mentoring of Somalia’s Security Forces.
All this would not have been possible without the strategic partnership and involvement of the Somali authorities who are in agreement that Somalia’s security forces should take over from AMISOM.
The past year has witnessed developments on the security front where Somali security forces have proved their increasing capabilities. We have seen Somalia National Army (SNA) attack, win and hold ground. This is a strong signal to the terrorist groups that their days of terror are numbered. A professionally trained and well-equipped SNA is indeed a game-changer in the fight against terrorism in Somalia.
In the Lower Shabelle region the SNA, alongside AMISOM forces, have conducted operations that have seized territory and pushed back the terrorists. The most recent victories were recorded in Sabiid and Bariire. For seven years, Sabiid was a base where terrorists assembled explosives, but now it is liberated. This is proof that, given the right conditions, the SNA is capable of leading successful anti-terror operations and can take over security responsibility of their country. These conditions include among others generating the required troop numbers, proper training, equipment and payment of salaries.
We salute international partners such as European Union, the United States of America, Germany, and the United Kingdom who continue to support efforts to build the capacity of the Somali Security Forces – both the federal and federal member state police and military – through recruitment and training.
With support from international partners, the Somali Security Forces are securing the population in the recently liberated areas, conducting patrols, securing critical infrastructure including roads, hospitals, schools and are supporting the running stabilisation and early recovery activities.
Our operations in Somalia are guided by the AU Peace and Security Council as well as the UN Security Council. So, since December 2017, AMISOM has been reducing its troop numbers, in line with relevant UN Security Council decisions. The UN has set December 2021 as the date when AMISOM will fully exit from Somalia. This year in February, AMISOM completed a further reduction of 1,000 troops. This reduction in AMISOM troop numbers has also meant that AMISOM has to hand over Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) and other facilities to the SNA. Last year, AMISOM forces vacated the Mogadishu University, Mogadishu National Stadium and Jaale Siyaad Military Academy and handed over the security responsibility of these facilities to respective Somali institutions.
Last year, AMISOM also developed a new Concept of Operations (CONOPs) to support the implementation of the Somalia Transition Plan which guides our exit strategy. As part of the operationalisation of CONOPs 2018/2021, AMISOM has been reconfiguring its military, police and civilian components. The military commanders of AMISOM and SNA have since developed a detailed plan to implement the military aspects of the CONOPs.
Under the reconfiguration, AMISOM will either collapse some FOBs or hand them over to the Somali Security Forces. Already, in Jubaland State, AMISOM has handed over the Via-Afmadow base to Jubaland security forces.
The brave men and women of AMISOM police continue to provide operational support as well as training and mentoring to federal and federal member state police. Two additional AMISOM Formed Police Units and 67 Individual Police Officers are to be deployed to boost training, mentoring and support to the upcoming national elections.
We have also made significant progress with the deployment of AMISOM civilian staff to support and complement the activities of our military and police components and to boost the institutional capacity building and broader stabilisation and recovery efforts in the federal member states of Jubaland, South West, and HirShabelle. With this, we shall be able to help secure the gains that we’ve made over the twelve years since AMISOM first deployed in Somalia.
With improving peace and security as well as expanding business opportunities across the country, Somalia is witnessing an impressive growth of its aviation sector, which now attracts some of the world’s best-known international airlines.
Turkish Airlines, Kenya Airways, Ethiopia Airlines, and Qatar Airlines operate regular flights into Mogadishu and on August 29, Uganda Airlines joined the list. The national carrier of Uganda launched its direct flight from Entebbe International Airport to Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle International Airport, joining the growing list of international and regional airlines that now fly into Somalia.
After more than two decades of conflict, Somalia is on the path to recovery anchored on the effort and sacrifice of AMISOM, whose troops are fighting alongside Somali Security Forces to defeat terrorist groups and restore peace and security. The expulsion of terrorists from Mogadishu and many other parts of Somalia by AMISOM and Somali Security Forces has boosted investor confidence, opened up business and economic opportunities, facilitated growth in the air and travel industry, seen the reopening of international agencies and foreign embassies and the return of the Somali diaspora who are keen to be part of a new trajectory for their country.
With all our efforts dedicated to the transition plan, we envision that by 2021, Somali Security Forces will be ready to fully take over security responsibilities of the country from AMISOM.