The East African (Nairobi)

12 December 2011

East Africa: How Joining Amisom Will Boost Kenya's Campaign in Somalia

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As the UN Security Council sits this Wednesday, Kenya is hoping one of the key items on the agenda will be to reshape Amisom, the African Union Mission in Somalia, especially its size and funding.

Last week, the Kenyan Cabinet and parliament both voted to endorse the "re-hatting" of the Kenya Defence Forces troops in Somalia as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia as per the request from the AU's Peace and Security Council. Though the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon on Thursday welcomed Kenya's decision to offer its troops to Amisom, this is not actually a done deal.

Acting under Chapter 8 of the UN Charter, which allows for regional arrangements to tackle common security threats, the UN Security Council initially authorised the AU to deploy 8,000 Amisom troops in Somalia. It has also authorised a logistical support package to support this deployment. In December 2010, this ceiling was raised to 12,000. Currently Amisom has a troop strength of approximately 9,800 Ugandan and Burundian troops. With both Djibouti and Burundi having been invited to send a battalion each, this will make up most of the 2,200 shortfall.

What that means is that, if re-hatted immediately, Kenyan forces would take the numbers above the mandated 12,000. In recognition of this, the communiqué from the 302 meeting of the PSC requested Kenya to join Amisom "as part of the next phase of deployment" -- which has yet to be mandated by the Security Council.

While the Security Council is due to meet this week, it is doubtful that there has been adequate preparation for any review of mandated troop levels. The Kenyan troops may therefore have to wait a little longer to don Amisom's green beret.

Questions regarding the compatibility of Operation Linda Nchi with the Amisom mandate as well as command and control arrangements in the field will also need to be resolved. Will the Kenyans join the Ugandan, Burundian and, shortly, Djibouti troops in Mogadishu or will they stay in the south? Given that the Amisom mission is to support the Transitional Federal Government, is Kenya willing to give up its objective of setting up a buffer administration along the common border?

Speaking to The EastAfrican, KDF spokesperson Maj Emmanuel Chirchir said that although Kenya needs approval by the UN Security Council to join Amisom, the Kenyan operation will not change because Chapter 7, under which the Amisom is operating, is robust. It allows for peace enforcement contrary to the common belief that Amisom is simply a peacekeeping force that can only defend itself when attacked.

Maj Chirchir said that the Amisom mandate was to restore peace in the entire country, starting with Mogadishu, and once the capital is secured, the Ugandan and Burundi contingents are free to move beyond Mogadishu.

"One of the reasons why Amisom has been confined to Mogadishu is that African countries have been hesitant to provide additional troops. Kenya is now providing the necessary numbers that Amisom needs to move beyond Mogadishu," he said.

However, to do this, Amisom will need force enablers and multipliers in the shape of air and naval assets, of which it currently has none. The Kenyans do have this capability, as they have shown in their raids in the south, but it remains to be seen whether they would be willing to hand over the reins to Amisom.

For Kenya, a quick re-hat would come with significant advantages, not the least of which would be significant financial savings. The country is currently spending up to Ksh7 million ($77,000) a day to keep its troops in Somalia. Amisom contingents, on the other hand, benefit from the UN's logistical support package, which caters for everything from flak jackets and helmets to food, medical evacuations, accommodation and beddings. Further, an AU/EU strategic partnership agreement through the African Peace Facility has to date provided over $275 million to cover soldiers' allowances and civilian operational costs. As a result, Amisom troops are paid at rates equivalent to other UN peacekeeping operations ($1,028 a month).

Further, via voluntary contributions to the Amisom Trust Fund, the UN actually pays for and maintains the equipment, such as tanks and guns, that Amisom contingents deploy to Somalia.

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