Amisom troop contributors urge talks as mission nears transition

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  • Although the countries generally agreed that Amisom will have to change with the times, they argued the original challenge of taming the security threats in the Horn of Africa country was far from being achieved.

Troop contributing countries for the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) are asking for closer discussions with donors on what new duties to adopt as the continental force nears transition.

The details emerged on Tuesday after an informal consultative meeting of technical experts from the five troop contributing countries in Nairobi.

Although the countries generally agreed that Amisom will have to change with the times, they argued the original challenge of taming the security threats in the Horn of Africa country was far from being achieved.

The continental mission, authorised by the UN Security Council (UNSC) was formed in 2007 to help protect the then nascent Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) is now running on its extended mandate until December 2021.

The UNSC extended the mandate, which was originally meant to expire in February, after Somalia failed to hold elections on time, creating security tensions that have since been calmed with an agreement to hold elections from July 25.

But even as the country hurtles towards the much-delayed polls, troop contributing countries (TCCs) – Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Burundi – say Amisom’s role in Somalia will continue beyond 2021.

‘Silencing the guns’

Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau, the convener of the two-day experts’ meeting on Sunday, said Amisom must now be seen as a key player within African Union’s target of ‘Silencing the Guns’ by helping stabilise Somalia.

He argued Amisom is now “not just essential to the pursuit of the region’s peace and security but was consistent with the continental campaign of “Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020”, a campaign that was aimed at achieving a peaceful and conflict-free Africa,” according to a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Silencing the Guns policy had been adopted seven years ago by the African Union to help end violent conflict by 2020.

The target was missed, but an AU assessment earlier in April this year said future initiatives must address causes of violent conflict, rather than simply attack the problem.

“Silencing the Guns will require enhancing State-society relations and addressing structural causes and triggers of conflict and emerging threats in a sustained manner, and should therefore become a rallying call for the union beyond the current term of this commission,” said the report published in April to mark Chairperson Mousa Faki Mahamat’s first term in office.

Stabilisation force

Amisom, essentially a combat force created by the African Union, was meant to be a military solution to Somalia’s inherent terrorism threat posed by militant group al-Shabaab

As its extended mandate nears end, the technical experts say the proposal to turn the Mission into a ‘stabilisation’ force is welcome as long as Somalia, and the African Union become central to the required changes.

An independent assessment by a team from the African Union recently suggested Amisom will still be crucial in 2022 but must change into some type of a multidimensional stabilisation joint mission under African Union and the UN Mission in Somalia and deployed under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, meant to prevent an existing threat to international peace and security.

“In the ensuing deliberations, the Technical Experts of the Amisom TCCs observed that the containment of threats to peace and security in Somalia still existed,” the statement said of Somalia’s stability.

“In particular, the technical experts regretted that Somalia had become a threat to international peace and security due to chronic instability in that country, a situation that had been worsened by, and nourished the existence of, terroristic elements in Somalia.”

Arms embargo

Somalia is still under an arms embargo imposed by the UNSC, and although Mogadishu has pushed for the lifting of the ban to allow it to equip its forces, TCCs say the threat of al-Shabaab means a regional force will continue to stay in Somalia.

If changed to a stabilisation mission however, Amisom will take on other duties to address development challenges and other problems seen as the cause of al-Shabaab, besides the military approach.

The UN has tried stabilisation forces before in the past, with mixed successes, such as in Liberia after the war, Mali to tackle insurgency and Kosovo after the war.

It has employed the same for DR Congo and Central Africa Republic. Critics charge, however, that some of those missions have not succeeded because they did not place local people at the centre of solutions.