African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has requested for close to 9,000 more soldiers to facilitate its operations. This request has come with a stern warning to the political elite against using their contribution to Somalia as a bargaining power to table their demands.
“States should not use AMISOM troops as a bargaining power to seek compliance on their demands,” said the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia (SRCC) Ambassador Fransisco Madeira. He added,
“These soldiers give so much including their lives. It is better to find other avenues to pile pressure on but not AMISOM soldiers.” It is barely a week since Kenya started withdrawing her slightly over 1,000 soldiers out of rage from South Sudan after the United Nations fired Lt Johnson Ondieki as the peacekeeping army commander for allegedly not protecting civilians as indicated in a report that criticised his leadership. Ahead of the October 2018 exit plan, Madeira said despite their ongoing peacekeeping efforts, they face a serious lack of logistics support.
This is on the side of Somali’s army that now stands at about 10,900.
“But we need to have at least 20,000 to ensure the country’s army is equipped fully ahead of the exit. This is exactly where the problem is.” Madeira asked for the United Nations to consider equipping the Somali soldiers who are being trained by AMISOM countries. He further asked for facilitation of firearms and other armories to Somalia’s army.
We are training the Somali soldiers but you see, a soldier becomes one when he has a gun to fight. But there is fear that Somali is full of guns hence the hesitation,” said Madeira. Madeira said through the training, they have already certified the Somali troops to fight alongside AMISOM but they lack firearms.
The training is being done by Uganda, Turkey, and Ethiopia among other nations. “Only when we realise Somalia is fully equipped that is when we shall leave. But there is no time. Our heads of state have already directed the mission to be closed in 2018,” Madeira said. However, Uganda which has the largest number of troops in the country (about 22, 000) announced in June that it will be pulling out its soldiers in December 2017.
But AMISOM has its fingers crossed on the ongoing election in Somalia as its success will ensure a smooth transition and facilitate a flawless exit. Acknowledging that the elections are behind schedule, Madeira noted that to date elections for the upper house of the federal parliament have been partially completed with 43 out of the 54 senate seats are filled.
“Elections of the lower house are currently ongoing in the regional states of Jubbaland, South West, Puntland, Galmudug and the recently formed Hir Shabelle state,” Madeira said.
Presidential polls are to be held on November 30.