Mogadishu - The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) today officially handed over Maslah Forward Operating Base (FOB) to the Federal Government of Somalia, ceding control of the facility it had occupied since 2012.
The handover is in line with the joint Concept of Operations (CONOPs) and the Somali Transition Plan - developed by the Federal Government of Somalia, ATMIS, the UN and development partners to guide the transition process.
A land lease agreement formalizing the handover was signed by the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia and Head of ATMIS Ambassador Mohamed El-Amine Souef and Somalia's State Minister for Defence, Abdinur Daahir Fidow at a ceremony held in the capital, Mogadishu.
"Today is a proud moment for us as a Mission. Maslah is the first facility to be handed over by ATMIS since its inception in 1 April 2022, following the end of the AMISOM mandate," the SRCC said at the ceremony attended by top Federal Government of Somalia officials, envoys and representatives of the UN and troop contributing countries (TCC's).
The official handover follows the departure of the ATMIS Burundi contingent and subsequent takeover of the facility by the Somali National Army on January 15. Ambassador Souef emphasized the key role the FOB has played in securing the capital, Mogadishu, and facilitating the Mission's military operations.
"Geographically it has also enabled our troops to secure the major supply route (MSR) connecting Mogadishu and the hinterland hence ensuring the safe and secure movement of goods and services which is important for both economic and social development of this country," he observed.
Speaking at the event, Somalia's State Minister for Defence said the handover comes at a time when the Federal Government has intensified military operations against Al Shabab in central and south Somalia.
"Huge military gains have been achieved in the past few months and we are keen to double the current efforts and count on your support in eradicating the Al-Shabaab," Mr. Fidow said, reiterating the Federal Government's commitment to the transition process.
On his part, the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) Director Amadu Kamara lauded the stakeholders for making the process a success despite numerous challenges.
"The success of the handover of Maslah, within the restrictive timelines and other constraints, is a testament to the will of the Somalia Government to succeed in force generation and facilitating new offensive operations," said Mr. Kamara.
The Acting ATMIS Force Commander, Brig. Gen. Peter Omola who also attended the function spoke about the history and significance of the FOB, noting that the facility has acted as a bulwark against terrorist attacks by Al Shabab militants.
"I have no doubt that our SNA brothers who have taken over the FOB are equal to the task ahead of them. ATMIS forces remain ready to partner with SSF (Somali Security Forces) in furtherance of core security ideals in the Hirshabelle region and Somalia in general," Brig. Gen. Omola said.
The Commander of the ATMIS Burundi contingent, Brig. Gen. Jean Claude Niyiburana thanked the local community in Maslah for their support over the years adding that his troops will continue playing its part in the stabilization process.
"The Burundi contingent is committed to collaborating with all partners to establish peace and security in Somalia" Brig. Gen. Niyiburana.
The SRCC announced that the Mission is implementing a comprehensive plan that will address conservation issues and ensure the respect of the environment in its activities.
"Going forward we will prioritize good environmental practices in all our military operations. As a bold step we are going Green in all our FOBs by using environmentally friendly technology to power our water and energy needs," Ambassador Souef said.