The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) today officially handed over the premises of the Somali National University back to the federal government authorities, relinquishing control of the institution, which it had occupied for the last 10 years.
AU troops from Burundi contingent first occupied the university in 2007, starting off as a small Forward Operating Base, and later evolving into a Battalion headquarters to coordinate operations against Al-Shabaab; succeeding to drive the militants out of Mogadishu through combined efforts with other AU troops. Today’s handover paves way for the re-opening of the learning institution.
“AMISOM, with this event, is showing clearly that we have started the transition to the Somalis. We are transiting the University of Somalia from a military barracks, back into an institution of higher learning and putting it back into the hands of the Somalis,” Ambassador Francisco Caetano Madeira, the AU Special Representative for Somalia told guests at the handover ceremony, officiated by the Minister for Higher Education Mr. Abdirahman Dahir Osman.
The troops which set base at the university were relocated to the headquarters of AMISOM Sector 5, in Jowhar, in an exercise that commenced in April 2016. The AU Special Representative said relinquishing control of the university was the “start of the gradual process to hand over security to the Somali National Security Forces”, adding that it demonstrates how Somalis are leading efforts to reconstruct their country.
“This hand over ceremony is an affirmation that the Al-Shabaab days are numbered. They controlled this city for many years. But where are they today? They are in the bush,” Amb. Madeira remarked.
Established in 1954, the university closed its doors as a result of the outbreak of the civil war in 1991. However, it re-opened its constituent colleges in August 2014, to offer specialized training, after a return to relative peace in Somalia.
“We are here for a sort of triple celebration. One, is to recognize the role of AMISOM and in this case, the Burundi contingent, more broadly AMISOM, working in partnership with the Somali security forces in securing this place and so much of Somalia in the last difficult 10 years and I pay deep tribute to that,” Mr. Michael Keating, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Somalia said in his address.
Mr. Abdirahman Dahir Osman, the federal Minister for Higher Education described the handover as “a symbol of the rebirth of Somalia”.
“We give priority to security, economic development and importantly, education. We believe that education lays the foundation for sustainable development,” the minister said.
His sentiments were echoed by Mr. Mohamed Ahmed Jimale, the Rector of the university, who said handing back the premises to the federal government “marked a return of peace, security and stability”, in Somalia.