WARARKA BARAAWEPOST Thursday 31 december 2009
Somalia: Why Troops Must Be Deployed Now
By JULIANA TAIWO, 12.29.2009
The entire event was aimed to explore mechanisms of influencing public opinion and support for African Union Mission for Somalia (AMISOM) in Somalia, especially in current and potential Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs).
The forum sought to enable citizens—through gatekeepers—from the TCCs to appreciate the roles, responsibilities and contributions of their troops to the peace process in Somalia and its far-reaching implications for the African continent. It also aimed to explore mechanisms of influencing public policy in the current and potential TCCs with a view to generating more troops for the mission.
It is pertinent to note that the Nigerian government had stated categorically that there is no peace to keep in Somalia rather what is needed is peace enforcement. Apparently, Nigeria drew its assertion from its experience in Liberia and Sierra Leone conflicts of the late 80s and early ‘90s. It also further stated that the agreements reached with the European Union (EU) in providing equipment and funding has also not been met.
Nigeria had last August, said in the face of dwindling resources following the global economic crisis as well as the then militancy in the Niger Delta region and other competing demands at the home front, it was considering reducing its commitment in external peacekeeping operations. Government had also lamented that with 5,000 soldiers in Darfur and the current troop strength of 17,000 in various peacekeeping missions worldwide, the burden on Nigeria’s budget was becoming unbearable.
But the Acting Special Representative of the Chairperson of African Union Commission on AMISOM, Hon. Wafula Wamunyinyi grabbed the attention when he raised the alarm that if TCCs do not redeemed their pledge of sending troops to tackle insurgency and restore peace in Somalia, the continent should not be surprise to witness a repeat of September 11 attack on an African soil with the kind of support the Al-Shabab group was enjoying from Al-Qaeda which is known to commit ghastly terrorists attacks that have led to hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths in counties like US, Afghanistan, UK, Pakistan among others. “If more security-sophisticated countries like the US, UK and Spain could be affected, then Africa may be like a play ground for any Al-Qaeda terrorist attack,” he explained.
Wamunyinyi further warned that African continent is not immune from the September 11-like attack if each member state of the African Union (AU) continues to play the ostrich as Al-Shabab are now being trained by Al-Qaeda militias in terrorism acts, suicide bombings, targeted attacks and kidnappings. He added that “no African country should think it is safe as long as Al-Qaeda is present in Somalia.”
The AMISOM boss particularly called on Nigeria, being a senior, strategic partner and a major stakeholder on African issues with experience in peacekeeping operations to take the lead in keeping to its international commitment, warning that no country is safe if Al-Shabab is allowed the freehand to foster.
Ordinarily, the African Union Mission for Somalia (AMISOM) was established by the African Union Peace and Security Council (PSC) in January, 2007 and mandated to provide support to the Somalia Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) in their efforts to stabilise the country and further dialogue and reconciliation; facilitate provision of humanitarian assistance, and create conducive conditions for long term stabilisation, reconstruction and development in Somalia.
In implementing its mandate since March 2007, AMISOM Programme Manager, Mr. James Gadin, explained that the mission has deployed a military component comprising of two contingents from Burundi and Uganda. According to him, AMISOM force is deployed in strategic locations covering the airport, seaport, Kilometre-4, Villa Somalia (The Presidency), Siad Barre Military Academy and the former Mogadishu University.
Apart from providing security to the TFIs and key installations, the force has also been involved in the provision of humanitarian services such as medicare and portable water supply to Somalis, which have gone a long way in winning the hearts and minds of the ordinary Somali citizen.
Taking participants through the challenges of AMISOM, Gadin said AMISOM has suffered some challenges despite its laudable objectives including operating below the mandated troop strength of 8000, operating in a very hostile environment in which AMISOM soldiers have been attacked (200 injured) and killed (60 deceased), as well as lack of sufficient understanding of the mandate and roles of AMISOM both in Somalia and in the current and potential Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs).
“Despite the laudable objectives of the mission, and the political, security and humanitarian tasks which the mission has undertaken over the last two years in Somalia, it continues to suffer a number of challenges which have hampered successful implementation of the mandate.
The mission has not been able to generate and deploy its mandated troop strength of 8000 soldiers, largely due to inadequate financial and logistical resources. The mission is also operating in a very hostile environment. By September 3, more than 60 peacekeepers had been killed, while close to 200 had been injured. That problem has been compounded by the complex and multi-faceted nature of the conflict and the fluid nature of the actors.
“AMISOM has also faced the challenge of lack of wider public support in Somalia, and in the respective Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs). This is due to lack of sufficient information about the mission, and negative publicity arising out of the attacks and killings of its soldiers. In particular, the level of casualties recorded by the mission has been exploited by those opposed to the mission in Somalia and the TCCs to call for troop withdrawal, as well as to delay deployment by potential TCCs and other logistical support,” he lamented.
Speaking on the needs for TCCs to react now, Wamunyinyi said, “we have made an appeal to member states of the African Union to deploy troops in Somalia, particularly we have asked our big brothers Nigeria, Ghana and others to take the Somalia situation not as Somalia concern alone, but an issue for the entire African region, and for the whole of the international community.
“The Al-Shabab at the moment are now being supported by Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda’s continuous grip on the activities of Al-Shabab has given them such manner of organisation that they have gone as far as appointing managers, trainers, financiers to manage the affairs of Al-Shabab and have opened up training camps within Somalia.
Unless this is checked we will have the movement of Al-Shabab strengthened by Al-Qaeda and also because the international community’s efforts in Afghanistan are being strengthened, there is need to act so as not to turn Somalia to a new haven for Al-Qaeda activities.
“President Barrack Obama has recently resolved that America is making further deployment of over 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan, the United Kingdom deploying 10,000, the NATO members and European Union states are doing the same, to strengthen the multilateral military efforts in Afghanistan. The troop level in Afghanistan is going up to 150,000.
“While Afghanistan is receiving that much attention, Africans on the other hand, are not deploying in Somalia. We need to realise that as pressure mounts on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan they will move to Somalia and when they move, the situation will become critical because they can attack anybody, especially with the weak institutions there.
This is because now they are training in terrorism, suicide bombings, targeted attacks and kidnappings. What happened in the US on September 11, can happen anywhere in Africa. No African country should think it is safe. African leaders must understand that this problem must be solved otherwise the security of Africa, the security of member states is greatly jeopardised by the presence of Al-Qaeda in Somalia,” he warned.
Wamunyinyi said “Nigerian forces have been involved in peacekeeping missions in various countries and have had extensive experience in conflicts resolution, we need them to provide us with selfsame experience as a senior and critical partner and a major stakeholder on the continent.
I mean Nigeria is a strategic partner and a major stakeholder on African issues. So we are really looking at Nigeria to take its position to lead, to take up its position as a leader in Africa to deploy in Somalia. If this does not happen they should not sit in Nigeria or anywhere and think we are safe. Al-Qaeda and by extension Al-Shabab is capable of attacking anywhere, this is how serious it is,” he said.
Currently, only Uganda and Burundi have deployed troops made up of 4,500 peacekeeping (six battalion) soldiers who are presently being owed nine months allowances since April. Only $800,000 has been disbursed of the US$230million promised by the European Union (EU) to support the efforts to restore peace in Somalia. So there are enormous financial and logistics challenges for the mission.
While the spirit was still high on the second and final day of the workshop, news filtered in from Somalia that a suicide bomber disguised as a woman sneaked into a graduation ceremony at the Shamo Hotel in Mogadishu and blew himself up resulting in the death of three ministers, journalists, parents and several others including 30 of the 43 medical students having their graduation ceremony. Obviously, the saddening news disrupted the workshop for about 10 minutes during which AMISOM issued a statement condemning the attack in strong terms.
In a pensive mood, Wamunyinyi, told the participants and the media present that the attack was to blackmail the government of Somalia and the AMISOM working towards peace and stabilisation of the country. “We condemn this attack and the perpetrators of this act in the strongest terms. We want to assure the people of Somalia and the international community that AMISOM will remain steadfast, we are going to continue providing our services to the people of Somalia, Transitional Federal Government (TFG), to the people of Africa and this is not going to cow us in any way. Our message to President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad is that we will be with them at this difficult time all the way.
The commander of the African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in Somalia, Maj. Gen. Nathan Mugisha said the attack showed an urgent need to deploy more peacekeeping troops to the country to restore peace and tackle terrorists.
He warned that as countries continue to take a slow decision in deploying troops, the militants in Somalia are gaining more grounds. “These are things we have been talking about here. Now, it is evident you can see an explosion at a graduation ceremony where you have harmless students, parents, leadership and the public. Obviously it was not a good intention, when you are targeting innocent people, young doctors graduating having been trained.
“What has happened shouldn’t derail us from our plans, it’s a shock but it is not surprising and I think if anything, it should just make us more resolute to achieve in this conference anything that was determined to be achieved,” he said.
Shabakadda warbaahinta ee Baraawepost Muqdisho Somalia firstname.lastname@example.org