Lt. Gen. Gutti will oversee the expansion of the Amisom. Photo by AFP
Friday, May 04, 2012
A new commander, Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti, has taken over the leadership of the military component of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).
During the handover ceremony in Mogadishu on Wednesday, the special representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, Ambassador Boubacar Diarra, said Lt. Gen. Gutti’s experience and knowledge would greatly benefit international efforts to restore peace and stability in the country.
“With the support of the international community, Amisom will continue to work towards the restoration of peace and freedom of movement for Somalia in the near future, which is critical for the progress in the global fight against terrorism and aspirations for regional stability,” Mr Diarra said.
A press release from the spokesperson of Amisom, Mr Eloi Yao, said the appointment of Lt. Gen. Gutti to the helm comes at a time when the force is expanding across the country having secured the capital.
In February, the UN Security Council raised Amisom’s authorised 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.
Further reports indicated that currently 14,400 Amisom troops are deployed in Somalia with the recent arrival of an advance party of 100 troops in Baidoa to be joined soon by a further 2,400.
Peacekeepers say al-Shabaab was becoming marginalised in Southern Somalia as they have lost ground and the support of the Somali population.
While speaking at the function, Gen. Gutti said the military success of Amisom has been acknowledged by the current expansion of the mission.
“Security and stability will enable a wide cross-section of Somali’s to engage in the national political dialogue. We will continue working with the Somali army and affiliated groups to train its soldiers and advance the National Security and Stabilisation Plan, an ongoing process parallel to the approval of a draft constitution.”
The new commander, who has served in the UPDF for over 26 years, will oversee an expanded Amisom force, which will include Kenyan, Ugandan, Djiboutian, Burundian and Sierra Leonean forces. He took over from Maj. Gen. Fred Mugisha during whose tenure, Amisom forces helped drive the Al Qaeda-affiliated terror group, al-Shabaab, from fixed positions in Mogadishu, ushering in the longest sustained period of relative peace that the Somali capital has had since the collapse of central government in 1991.