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Ugandan general takes over battle against Al Shabaab
Afrique en Ligue
Thursday, May 03, 2012

Ugandan army Lieutenant General, Andrew Gutti, has taken over as the new Commander of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), bringing together peacekeepers from Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda and Sierra Leone, AU officials said on Wednesday. Gutti replaced Lt.-Gen. Fred Mugisha, who handed over to the new force commander on Wednesday during a ceremony witnessed by top AU peace support operations officials, including Sivuyile Bam in Mogadishu.

The AMISOM force is expected to welcome the Sierra Leonean contingent, which will replace a battalion from Kenya, deployed in Southern Somalia, military sources told PANA.

'AMISOM's military progress is critical to the future of peace in Somalia. Security and stability will enable a wide cross-section of Somalis to engage in the national  political dialogue,” the new force commander said in a statement released on Wednesday.

“We  will  continue working with the Somali Army and affiliated groups to train its soldiers and advance the National Security and Stabilization Plan, an ongoing process parallel to the approval of a draft constitution,' he added.

Uganda, which has the highest number of troops on the ground, is therefore naturally entitled to appoint the force commander, but Burundian, Djibouti and Kenyan troops make the bulk of the 17,731 troops.

Kenya sought a new command structure to enable one of its commanding officers to oversee the operations along the common border with Somalia as part of efforts to boost security along the buffer zone with Somalia after a series of attacks near the common border.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has already appointed a senior army officer as deputy to the Ugandan Lieutenant General. The Kenyan was appointed the Director of Operations.

The delicate balance of command responsibility at the AMISOM headquarters saw a Burundian army officer, of the rank of Major-General, occupy the post of deputy commander of AMISOM.

In its statement, the AU congratulated outgoing Lt.-Gen Mugisha for helping to drive out the Al Shabaab from key positions in Mogadishu and other areas, enabling the fledgling government to enjoy its most illustrious period of stability in several years.

The AU said the appointment of the new force commander comes at a time when AMISOM is expanding across the country having secured the capital, Mogadishu.

In February, the UN Security Council raised AMISOM's authorized strength to 17,731 troops. Once the process of integrating Kenyan and Sierra Leonean units in south
Somalia is complete, the force will have a presence in the regions of Bay, Gedo and Lower Juba in addition to Banadir and Middle and Lower Shabelle.

Currently, 14,400 AMISOM troops are deployed in Somalia with the recent arrival of an advance party of 100 troops in Baidoa to be soon joined by a further 2,400.

The AU said the Al Shabaab is becoming marginalized in Southern Somalia as they have lost ground and the support of the Somali population.


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