Officials from countries that contribute to AMISOM, the African Union force in Somalia, are meeting this week in Uganda to discuss a transitional security plan for the troubled country. While AMISOM has made gains in Somalia, the risks still presented by militant group al-Shabab remain vivid due to inadequate funding and troop numbers.
Over the past few years, AMISOM has pushed al-Shabab away from major cities, and the federal government of Somalia has taken steps toward stability. With foreign help, the Somali security forces have grown stronger, and political leaders are aiming to hold nationwide elections in 2020.
These gains, however, are being undermined by inadequate troop numbers and lack of predictable and sustainable funding to fight al-Shabab and a small faction of Islamic State fighters in the north.
The five AMISOM countries are planning to start a drawdown of their troops in Somalia this year, and withdraw all of them by the end of 2020. Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa says it is essential that the Somali government intensify its effort to provide security for its people.
“It is crucial that the drawdown of AMISOM is synchronized with a corresponding strengthening of Somali security forces,” said Kutesa. “The failure to carefully manage this process could imperil the political and security gains already made.”
The ministers and defense officials meeting in Kampala say Somalis also have to make progress in settling internal political disputes, including tensions among clans and the periodic clashes between the forces of Puntland and Somaliland.
These are political issues that AMISOM has no mandate to handle yet they stand to undermine the little peace and stability already gained.
The troop contributing countries are also seeking support from key financial institutions such as the World Bank and African Development Bank.
Smail Chergui, the African Union commissioner for peace and security, notes that resource concerns could sink the fight against al-Shabab.
“More broadly, AMISOM will need to continue to enhance its operational effectiveness,” said Chergui. “Our operational imperative of degrading al-Shabab requires that we maintain an offensive and not defensive posture, and the requisite configuration to allow for that.”
The AMISOM talks open Friday in Kampala.