10 May 2017

East Africa: Uhuru Alarms Premature Amisom Troops Withdrawal

Photo: VOA
African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers from Burundi patrol after fighting between insurgents and government soldiers on the outskirts of Mogadishu (file photo).

On the eve of the Third London Conference on Somalia, President Uhuru Kenyatta insists that it would be catastrophic for the African Union Mission in Somalia to exit before realising the extermination of the Al Shabaab terror group.

As the United States, a funder, sets its sights on a full hand-over of security functions to Somalia's own forces, President Kenyatta is adamant that AMISOM - whose drawdown was projected to commence next year - must be adequately facilitated to complete its mission.

"We can hurry to leave but what happens when an inadequately prepared Somali force is left to its own devices? A vacuum is left and the root of the problem will re-emerge."

He maintained that it is in the best interest of Kenya to take the fight, as it were, to the enemy and not risk compromising regional stability.

"It is not a Somali problem. It is in essence our problem."

His position is shared by the AMISOM Force Commander Lieutenant General Osman Noor Soubagleh who at the conclusion of the African Chiefs of Defence Conference said, "the draw-down will be depend with (sic) some conditions."

"We need to first help to degrade and contain Al Shabaab, to bring levels of violence to levels that are acceptable that can allow for the government as such to be present and exercise its functions all throughout the country."

Kenya has toward that end led in the push to secure assessed contributions for the fight from the wider United Nations as opposed to voluntary contributions; with the backing of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. "It's my belief that there is a responsibility of the international community to fund AMISOM."

A push that was given further impetus by a reduction in funding from the European Union despite a spirited campaign by President Kenyatta.

The US has opposed the UN assuming full ownership of the Mission in Somalia and given its significant financial contributions to the organisation, it's a deciding vote.

"Given the severity of remaining security challenges in Somalia, we do not believe it is appropriate at this time to transition to a UN peacekeeping mission," US Deputy Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Michele J. Sison said.

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