Somalia: Why Amisom Should Stay Longer but With a Modified Mandate - Kibochi

(file photo).

A longer but modified term of stay will help the African Union Mission in Somalia, Amisom, address issues that have in the past led to a resurgence of the al-Shabaab.

Kenya's Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Robert Kibochi, has defended the call for Amisom's tour extension by troop contributing partners, arguing for the development of liberated areas, even though Mogadishu itself opposes the proposal.

In an interview with NTV on Thursday, Gen Kibochi argued that Amisom, apart from being underfunded, has had to deal with the challenge of offering civilian services like policing and other social amenities to win the hearts and minds of the public, and giving them reason not to join al-Shabaab and also defending liberated areas from falling back into the militant's' hands.

"We cannot remain in Somalia forever," he said. He defended the proposal by troop contributing countries to seek a modification on financing and terms of engagement for Amisom.

"We see ourselves as a force, together with other countries, to develop the Somali national forces to be able to protect themselves. Because that is the only long-lasting solution.

"But have we been able to degrade al-Shabaab completely? Absolutely not. There is still some work to be done.

"We propose a multi-dimensional force. Amisom has been primarily, largely, a military force. You cannot win an asymmetrical war like this one through military force alone. You need to come in and build schools, hospitals and roads. That requires a civilian dimension."

The five troop contributors -- Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Burundi -- say Amisom has to stay longer because the threat of al-Shabaab has persisted, and that Somalia's security forces are still not yet developed to take over the challenge.

Kibochi said some countries have downsized their troops because of limited funding. Though an AU Mission, Amisom has relied on funding from the European Union's Africa Peace and Security Architecture and though it is mandated by the UNSC, the UN only compensates for lost equipment of life.

"Because Kenya has a big interest and share a long border with Somalia, we have had to create our own troops that are paid by the Kenyan government to supplement what would have ordinarily have been paid for by the UN.

"The stretch has been huge and it is not sustainable. They have to look at it afresh so that there are more resources both in terms of human resources and also equipment," Gen Kibochi said of an imminent decision from the UN Security Council.

Whatever the UN decides, however, Somalia has issued mixed signals on what Mogadishu will eventually live with. A recent report by the AU's independent assessment team proposed a modification of Amisom to include civilian components and have it run as a UN Mission, widen its scope under AU and include civilian components, have it stay longer in Somalia or have it exit within six months after December. All proposals were rejected by Mogadishu.

Different perceptions

Mohamed Moalimu, the Somalia government Spokesman said Mogadishu had rejected any suggestion for the prolonged stay of Amisom, even if its mandate were to be modified.

"The Somali government held an inter-ministerial meeting to discuss the report and has rejected from the outset the report's finding and recommendations and will issue a formal statement," Moalimu said, without clarifying why.

Somalia, however, had agreed to an independent assessment by the UN team which also proposed a modification and direct funding from the UN. In turn, Mogadishu has contested the arms embargo, which it argues has made it difficult to equip its army. Under current UNSC conditions, Somalia's partners may help to equip the Somali National Forces, as long as the Council approves the kind of weapons provided to Somalia.

Amisom, however, has also operated in an environment where success is routinely tainted by claims of violations on the part of some troops.

Gen Kibochi reacted on two such charges: The alleged illegal sale of charcoal and irregular aerial bombardments of civilian areas.

"We have so many actors in Somalia who have the capacity to undertake the strikes and as a country, we see it as an allegation," Gen Kibochi said of the accusations of aerial strikes, which he argued were part of "machinations" to portray his troops as aggressors.

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