Sunday March 24, 2019
By FRED OLUOCH
Somali police force attend an Amisom handover ceremony of the Mogadishu stadium. Amisom had used the stadium as one of its base since 2011. PHOTO | AFP
Security and the planned elections in Somalia in 2020 could be
in jeopardy as the country continues to face increased terror attacks
blamed on poor facilitation and funding of the national army and African
The Somali National Army (SNA) this week vacated at least three of their bases in protest over months of missed pay.
abandoned bases are in the Middle Shabelle region. The SNA is funded by
the government in Mogadishu, the United States and the European Union,
while Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the UK occasionally chip in.
weak central government relies on the support of the military and
African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) peacekeepers against the
Islamic militants Al Shabaab.
“It is painful to be in
the frontline and fighting Al Shabaab while your wife and kids are
starving,” Col Abdi Mohamed Ahmed, one of the troops’ commanders, told
Reuters, adding that troops were deserting more bases.
Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire told government news agency
Sonna that only soldiers not registered had not been paid.
“Let the commanders register the unpaid soldiers. After that let the commanders ask for the salaries,” he said.
— coming at a time when Uganda and Burundi, the two big
troop-contributing countries in Amisom, are already protesting a phased
drawdown called by the UN and AU, threatening to pull out all their
soldiers if the two organisations insist on it — is disconcerting, with
Somalia watchers warning that any sign of retreat or weakness by the
Somali military or Amisom is potentially a boost to Al Shabaab.
the two countries were to make good their threat, with the SNA leaving
its bases, it would leave large swathes of the country exposed to a
possible takeover by the Shabaab, who have been fighting the regime in
Mogadishu and terrorising neighbouring countries for years now.
and Burundi have openly resisted the drawdown as per the United Nations
Resolution 2431 that demanded reduction of uniformed Amisom personnel
by 1,000 by the end of February. The two countries have threatened to
withdraw all their troops at once.
Pierre Nkurunziza threatened to withdraw all its 5,432 troops if the AU
does not reverse the decision. He was concerned that the withdrawal of
1,000 troops as directed by the AU Peace Support Operations Division
would leave the remaining troops vulnerable to attacks by Al Shabaab.
President Yoweri Museveni issued a similar threat, saying that the UN
plan for a phased withdrawal shows “lack of seriousness” in eliminating
Al Shabaab from Somalia.
These developments forced a
visit to Somalia by a joint delegation of the AU and UN to assess
progress made in implementing the Somalia Transition Plan. They are yet
to produce a report.
Kenya has started a withdrawal from Gedo region in southern Somalia,
amid a heightened dispute over the maritime border with Mogadishu.
The search for an out-of-court settlement
seemed to have failed — even with mediation by Ethiopian leader Abiy
Ahmed — paving the way for a legal battle at the International Court of
Justice in The Hague.
According to the Daily Nation, Nairobi is putting together the final touches to its defence in the case, set to begin in September.
Shabaab wants to expel Amisom from Somalia, topple the central
government and entrench its strict interpretation of Islamic law.
group was ejected from Mogadishu in 2011 and has since been driven from
most of its other strongholds across the country. But it remains a
formidable threat, with its fighters frequently carrying out bombings in
Somalia and the East African region, with Kenya bearing the brunt of
Somalia has been striving to overhaul its
security forces, which have drawn accusations of corruption from
Somalia’s international donors.
In 2017, the United
States suspended food and fuel aid for most of Somalia’s armed forces
for alleged graft and frustration at the failure of successive Somali
governments to build a viable national army.
Uganda and Burundi issue is being addressed, the withdrawal of Kenyan
troops from Gedo and protests by SNA have lifted the veil on the
pitfalls in the plan to pacify Somalia.
Defence Forces (KDF) and the SNA continue to retreat from their
positions for various reasons, endangering the gains the peacekeepers
have made in recent years.
Kenya has remained
tight-lipped on why its troops have withdrawn from Bardhera, Bursar, El
Adde, Taraka and Fafadum in Gedo region outside the new Amisom
operations blueprint known as the Concept of Operations (CONOPs). This
concept is meant to see several Forward Operating Bases (FOBs)
reconfigured and others disbanded.
Rashid Abdi, Horn of
Africa project co-ordinator at the International Crisis Group, said
that the KDF mission in Somalia faces the inevitable prospect of
diminishing returns and it is time Kenya invested in a robust,
well-equipped border defence force and gradually exit Somalia.
government of President Uhuru Kenyatta has resisted calls from the
opposition for a KDF withdrawal from Somalia after a series of Al
Shabaab terrorist attacks both in Kenya and Somalia, including the El
Adde, Westgate and Garissa University massacres.
Mr Mohammed warns that Kenya’s move, if it is related to the maritime
dispute, could give it a bad name, especially if Al Shabaab retake the
areas that had been liberated. In 2016, Ethiopia withdrew 4,000 troops
who were outside Amisom from bases in Bakol region, citing lack of
support from the international community. Al Shabaab quickly moved into
the vacated areas.
Mohammed Guled, a veteran journalist
and commentator on Somalia, says that the government of President
Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo is likely to welcome the withdrawal but the
public is unhappy with the prospect of Al Shabaab taking over.
in these areas will feel unsafe because, from past experiences, Al
Shabaab killed residents of areas vacated by Amisom, accusing them of
supporting infidels,” said Mr Guled.
Additional reporting by Reuters