US tells Ami­som to stay but force says it’ll go

State Depart­ment fears with­drawal could em­bolden Al Shabaab mil­i­tants, pledges con­tin­ued sup­port for peace­keep­ers

The East African - - FRONT PAGE - By FRED OLUOCH Spe­cial Correspondent

The UN di­rec­tive for a phased with­drawal of African peace­keep­ers from So­ma­lia next month has been op­posed by the US, which be­lieves the tim­ing is not right given the ter­ror­ist threat in the Horn of Africa.

The US State Depart­ment has warned that ex­trem­ism could es­ca­late in the re­gion if the with­drawal goes through, es­pe­cially now that Al Shabaab has in­creased the num­ber of sui­cide bomb­ings such as the Oc­to­ber 14 at­tack in Mogadishu that killed over 300.

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil has en­dorsed the with­drawal of an­other 1,000 troops from So­ma­lia by May next year largely with fi­nance, rather than se­cu­rity, as a key con­sid­er­a­tion after the EU cut its fund­ing to Ami­som.

Ami­som has been asking for an ad­di­tional 8,000 troops to bring the to­tal num­ber to 29,000 to cover ar­eas that are not un­der its con­trol but the troop con­tribut­ing coun­tries (Bu­rundi, Dji­bouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda) have not been re­cep­tive.

UN Resolution 2372

Wohlers Mar­ion, who is For­eign Ser­vice Of­fi­cer at the State Depart­ment, told The Eastafrican that the US does not ex­pect any troop with­drawals in De­cem­ber as Wash­ing­ton is ready to keep pro­vid­ing train­ing, equip­ment, lo­gis­tics, and ad­vi­sory sup­port in or­der to build a So­mali force ca­pa­ble of op­er­at­ing along­side, and even­tu­ally re­plac­ing, the African Union Mission.

“We do not sup­port fur­ther draw­down of forces beyond that level at this time, due to on­go­ing se­cu­rity con­cerns. The United States sup­ports a con­di­tions­based Ami­som draw­down that is tied to the de­vel­op­ment of ca­pa­ble, pro­fes­sional So­mali se­cu­rity forces,” said Mr Mar­ion.

The planned with­drawal is tied to the re­duc­tion of the Ami­som force man­dated by the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil 2372 Resolution made in Au­gust, which is to be car­ried out by the end of 2017.

Ac­cord­ing to the UN timetable, Ami­som will with­draw 1,000 troops by De­cem­ber and an­other 1,000 in May next year. The fi­nal with­drawal of the 21,000-strong Ami­som is set for 2020.

While Ami­som con­tin­ues to re­ceive fi­nan­cial, lo­gis­ti­cal and equip­ment sup­port from mul­ti­lat­eral donors, the re­duc­tion of the EU an­nual stipend to Ami­som from $200 mil­lion to $160 mil­lion has af­fected oper­a­tions.

The EU asked the AU to find al­ter­na­tive sources of fund­ing, and the con­ti­nen­tal Peace and Se­cu­rity Coun­cil has been try­ing to reach out to coun­ties in the Gulf to fill the gap.

The EU pro­vided $1.68 bil­lion to Ami­som be­tween 2004 and 2017. This in­cludes the $189.5 mil­lion ear­marked for the pe­riod April–de­cem­ber 2017.

Ami­som ben­e­fits from a UN lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port pack­age, do­na­tions, and vol­un­tary con­tri­bu­tions to the UN man­aged Trust Fund. The EU pro­vides the re­sources needed for pay­ing troop al­lowances and re­lated ex­penses within the frame­work of the African Peace Fa­cil­ity.

Joint oper­a­tions

Mwenda Njoka, spokesper­son for the Kenyan In­te­rior Mininstry, said that Kenya’s ob­jec­tives in go­ing into So­ma­lia in 2011 have been largely met, as Kenya sought to se­cure its bor­ders and di­lute Al Shabaab’s ca­pac­ity to at­tack the coun­try.

“We have seen at­tacks in Nairobi and Mom­basa de­cline sig­nif­i­cantly ex­cept in parts of north­ern Kenya where there are lim­ited op­por­tunis­tic at­tacks us­ing im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices. We con­tinue to in­crease bor­der se- cu­rity along the 700km bound­ary and we are in the process of flush­ing out Al Shabaab from Boni forest,” said Mr Njoka.

Ami­son spokesper­son Col Wil­son Rono in­sisted that the with­drawal will pro­ceed as sched­uled. “The num­bers will come from all the six sec­tors. The re­cent at­tacks will not dis­turb the pro­gramme un­less we are in­structed to the con­trary by the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and the AU,” said Col Rono.

But Uganda has of­fered to send 5,000 troops to So­ma­lia out­side Ami­som pro­vided the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity com­mits re­sources for the oper­a­tions. Pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni in Septem­ber gave the of­fer to Don­ald Ya­mamoto, US act­ing As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of State for African Af­fairs.

The first with­drawal which will be on a pro rata ba­sis, will see each of the five coun­tries re­duce their troops by four per cent. Uganda, with the high­est num­ber of troops in Ami­som (6,223) will send home about 250 troops, followed by Bu­rundi with 5,432 troops which will re­lease 217 sol­diers.

Ethiopia with 4,395 troops will pull back 176, Kenya’s 3,664 will be whit­tled down by 146 and Dji­bouti’s 1,000 troops will make do with­out 40.

Nonethe­less, po­lice con­tribut­ing coun­tries like Bu­rundi, Gam­bia, Ghana, Kenya, Nige­ria, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zim­babwe will con­trib­ute 500 of­fi­cers to beef up the So­ma­lian po­lice ser­vice across the coun­try.

Ami­som civil­ian head Fran­cisco Madeira, who is also the spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the AU Com­mis­sion chair­per­son said the re­duc­tion in peace­keep­ers would run con­cur­rently with the So­mali Na­tional Army (SNA) as­sum­ing the coun­try’s se­cu­rity re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Ami­som launched a mas­sive op­er­a­tion on Novem­ber 6 to flush out Al Shabaab mil­i­tants from Lower Sha­belle and se­cure main sup­ply routes in the area.

Ami­som is sup­posed to train and equip at least 30,000 SNA troops to take over once they leave.

The with­drawal will pro­ceed un­less we are in­structed to the con­trary by the UN and the AU.” Col. Wil­son Rono, Ami­son spokesper­son

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