WARARKA BARAAWEPOST Isniin 21 december 2009
Amisom losing out in Somalia
Militants of al-Shabaab train with weapons on a street in the outskirts of Mogadishu. Photo/REUTERS
By HALIMA ABDALLAH
The insecurity in Somalia is fast turning into a global issue as Al Qaeda support transforms the once disorganised Al Shabaab insurgents into a “super terrorist group,” the African Union Mission in Somalia has warned.
“The situation is getting out of hand. It is going to affect everybody in this region, not only Somalia. But it looks like neighbouring countries are waiting for Al Shabaab attacks before they treat the situation as very serious,” said Wafula Wamunyinyi, Deputy African Union Representative to Somalia.
He said Al Qaeda is increasingly turning to Somalia as Nato troops intensify pressure on its bases in Afghanistan.
Already, Al Shabaab has issued threats to bomb Kampala and Bujumbura, the only two countries with a peacekeeping force in Mogadishu.
Sources close to Amisom said that, with Al Qaeda logistical support at their disposal, the attacks could happen at the least expected time.
Unlike previous and current militia factions in Somalia, Al Shabaab is not based on clans.
A radical faction that emerged from the remnants of the Union of Islamic Courts routed by the Ethiopian forces that invaded Somalia in 2006, the group has with Al Qaeda’s help acquired the financial muscle to recruit globally.
Amisom peacekeepers in the country say many Somali Americans, Somali Canadians, American nationals, Pakistani nationals, Afghan, Ugandan and Kenyan youths have been recruited into Al Shabaab and are receiving training from Al Qaeda commanders in suicide bombing, remote control roadside bombings and bomb manufacturing.
US and Canadian intelligence, investigating a spate of recent disappearances of their Somali nationals, are concerned that these individuals, who hold genuine passports, will return home to spread terror after having received training from Al Shabaab.
Reports show that already three American nationals have been killed fighting alongside Al Shabaab.
In a recent confidence-building workshop for peacekeepers held in Kampala, Amisom called on AU members to fulfil their pledges made in 2007 to deploy their troops immediately.
The countries had pledge to raise up to 8,000 troops but only Uganda and Burundi came through with 5,000 troops, leaving a shortfall of 3,000 troops.
“If we had 8,000 troops on the ground, the situation would have been quite different, because we are still in the first, Mogadishu phase. We are supposed to graduate from Mogadishu to Kismayo, and proceed to other areas in the north, but we are constrained by lack of troops; the solution to this problem lies in building local capacity,” said Amisom Force Commander Maj-Gen Nathan Mugisha.
Maj-Gen Mugisha said it will require at least 20,000 troops to maintain peace in a country where Al Qaeda has found a safe haven and Al Shabaab controls most of the 3,000-km long coastlines.
“They are now putting in training camps managed by Al-Qaeda leaders. Till recently, they were an undisciplined lot, untrained, inexperienced. But now, they are being trained by experienced fighters, they are being trained in combat; they are being trained in terrorism — kidnappings and suicide bombings”. Mr Wamunyinyi said.
At the meeting, it was announced that Djibouti, a country with less than a million people, is ready to deploy troops while Uganda will add more men.
If Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone also deploy quickly, it could make a crucial difference.
“The work that can be done by 20,000 now, if you leave it for two years, it will require 100,000,” Maj-Gen Nathan Mugisha said.
As countries continue to delay deployment, the insurgents are becoming more organised on the ground and on the water as piracy increases by the day.
Said Maj-Gen Mugisha, “Unless we get stability on the land, a government that is fully in control, we cannot fight piracy effectively — the coastline of Somali is over 3000km, so where are you going to start from?
You need the co-operation of local people who know who is who, who can tell us who is on the water, because they have to come back to land,” he said.
He said Amisom’s limited achievements so far include making internal entry ports safer, with commercial flights now landing; securing over 440 ships and dhows from pirates; and facilitating peace talks.
Indeed, he said, being in Mogadishu itself is an achievement — should the Amisom troops pull out, it will be extremely difficult for any other force to deploy in Mogadishu.
Shabakadda warbaahinta ee Baraawepost Muqdisho Somalia firstname.lastname@example.org