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Issue 517/ 24th - 30th Dec 2011
Amisom Takes On Regional, Continental Character, As Kenya Heightens Attacks
Mogadishu, Somalia, December 24, 2011 – The AU force in Somalia is increasingly taking on a regional and continental character, offering fresh impetus to ongoing campaign to stamp out militias who have stoked terror throughout the East African region.
Last Tuesday saw the arrival of the first batch of Djiboutian forces in Mogadishu to join the AU Mission in Somalia (Amisom). More African countries are lining up to join. Kenya, which has troops in the south chasing after the al Shabaab terror group, whom it blames for a spate of kidnappings of Western tourists and aid workers that threatened its lucrative tourism industry, wants its soldiers rehatted as Amisom troops but needs a nod from the Security Council. (READ: How joining Amisom will boost Kenya’s campaign in Somalia)
Sierra Leone and Guinea have also offered to send a battalion each. An advance party consisting of 100 troops, led by General Zakaria Sheikh Ibrahim, landed at the city’s Aden Adde International Airport and were received by the Amisom Deputy Force Commander, Brigadier-General Audace Nduwumunsi. A further 800 will follow by the end of the month.
Gen. Nduwumunsi said the deployment of the Djiboutian contingent was a great step forward for the Amisom Force in Mogadishu and for building stability in the country. “The 900 extra troops will initially be based at Al Jazeera IV as they undergo specific, in theatre training,” he added.
Djibouti is the third African country to deploy soldiers under Amisom, and so far the only neighboring state to do so. Prior to this, Amisom had approximately 9,800 troops from Uganda and Burundi in Mogadishu. With Burundi planning to send an extra battalion, Amisom strength will soon reach 12,000, the maximum number its UN mandate allows it to have.
Amisom commanders estimate that they need up to 20,000 troops to secure Somalia and the AU has asked the UN Security Council to raise the troop ceiling to that level. In October, the Council promised to review the limit once it was reached.
Somalia’s neighbors had previously been barred from participating in a failed 2006 attempt by IGAD, of which all three are members, to field a peacekeeping force in support of the peace process.
In December 2006, the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of IGASOM, as the mission was to be called, but stipulated that neighboring countries were stay out. However, when the Council approved Amisom’s deployment in place of IGASOM, these clauses were dropped.
The 2008 Djibouti Agreement which currently forms the basis of the peace process, specifically called the AU to deploy a stabilization force “excluding neighboring states.” This, however, does not apply to Amisom since the force was already deployed in Mogadishu. In any case, the parties to that agreement now form the TFG and have requested neighboring states to intervene.
Security in Mogadishu has improved significantly since August as Amisom forced the terror group Al Shabaab to withdraw from the capital, ushering a period of relative calm. This is despite the fact that terrorist cells remain in the city and have launched a campaign of bombings targeting civilians and TFG officials.
According to Amisom Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Fred Mugisha, war-weary residents are contributing to the effort to keep their city safe. Speaking two weeks ago, he said tips from the public had led to 15 improvised explosive devices being found and disabled within a period of 10 days.
With the help of the population, security agencies have also had success in finding and arresting the perpetrators. In one incident, following a grenade attack on Bakara Market, members of the public helped police to find one of the attackers who was hiding in a house nearby.
The Al Qaeda-linked extremist group is also continuing to launch small scale attacks on Amisom and TFG positions on the outskirts of the city.
The attacks, which sometimes occur at night, cause few casualties among the Amisom troops in the well-fortified positions. Last week, two Amisom soldiers were injured in separate attacks in the outlying districts of Deynile and Dharkenley.
Media reports suggest the extremists may have lost up to 10 of their number in the Deynile attack.
As Amisom’s strength grows, the force will aim to expand its area of control and defend the city from without. Possible targets may include extremist strongholds of Afgoye, Balaad and the port town of Marka.
The AU has asked that Amisom, whose equipment is partly paid for through voluntary donations from donor countries paid into a UN fund that reimburses the contingents, draw its resources from the UN assessed contributions, a move that would guarantee the funding.
During his recent visit to Mogadishu, UN Secretary-General commended Amisom troops for doing “a tremendous job in very difficult circumstances,” and backed up the AU’s request for Amisom to be provided with helicopters as well as military engineering capabilities.
Amisom Force Spokesman, Col. Paddy Ankunda, said the Djibouti troops is a great step forward for the Amisom Force in Mogadishu and for building stability in the country. They will be initially be based at Al Jazeera IV as they undergo specific in-theatre training.
In the meantime, Somalia members of parliament a pro-government militia, Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a, started talks on the draft constitution that will enable the country to hold elections in August 2012 when the term of TFG comes to an end.
The talks that took place in Puntland, are an indication that the United Nations is keen to have the semi-autonomous region participate in the future of Somalia.
It was the first that Somali people engaged in talks on the future of Somalia since the collapse of the government of Siyad Barre in 1991.
The meeting also included officials from the semi-autonomous northern state of Puntland.
Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said that a stable government can be achieved through security, good governance, reconciliation and finalization of the draft constitution. TFG was established in 2004, but has been unable to hold a national Somalia dialogue due to instability, at first due to the warlords and later al-Shabaab.
The mandate of the so-called TFG was meant to end in November 2011, but was extended for 12 months in June at a meeting in Kampala.
Additional reporting by Fred Oluoch
Source: The East African