Dec 9, 2021

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

What is the fate of Amisom as Somalia mandate expires?

Fourteen years after fighting the Islamist uprising in al-Shabaab, the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) is at a crossroads. Amisom’s mandate on the UN Security Council expires on December 31, 2021. There is little evidence that the Somali security forces could immediately follow in the footsteps of the mission if Amisom withdraws.

Mainly key partners agree that Amisom al-Shabaab’s sudden withdrawal would encourage but views on the future of the mission differ.

Troop contributing countries (Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Burundi and Uganda) and the African Union (AU) want predictable funding to keep Amisom going. Tired European donors, on the other hand, wonder why they are funding a mission that has become more of a holding power than a counterinsurgency operation, while the dispute among Somali politicians is hampering reforms to strengthen the state and its security forces.

As December 31st approaches, the UN Security Council should extend Amisom’s mandate by six months. This would give donors, contributors and the Somali government time to agree on a major reconfiguration of the mission, ideally linked to a long-term plan.

In view of the divided Somali politics, the Amisom mandate is to be extended with no guarantee of success, but the alternative is far worse. Amisom’s withdrawal could spark an advance by al-Shabaab in parts of Somalia and likely spark another major political and humanitarian crisis in an already deeply unstable Horn of Africa.

Amisom has been instrumental in stabilizing Somalia played. In her early years she succeeded in ridding important urban centers of al-Shabaab militants and creating space for the Somali elites to build institutions and a political system. Their counterinsurgency efforts have cost the troop-contributing countries thousands of deaths or injuries in combat.

But many donors feel that the mission is dwindling in value. Al-Shabaab still dominates most of the rural centers of south-central Somalia, while its significant intelligence and force projection capabilities have allowed it to gradually re-infiltrate urban centers beyond its control.

Today, Amisom has stopped entering the Going on the offensive, mainly acting as a holding force protecting areas recaptured by al-Shabaab.

Meanwhile, the government of Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo is in favor of a rapid, gradual withdrawal of the Amisom after developing a transition plan has, after the Amisom security hands over responsibility to the armed forces until the end of 2023.

Yet even Somali officials who complain about the mission admit that this deadline is unrealistic.

Confused about the lack of progress on the mission and the fact that there is no clear termination date or plan, donors are more understandably angry wise about extending the mission’s mandate while the EU, which pays troop grants, will reduce contributions for 2022 Partners are dissatisfied with the status quo, they disagree on what Amisom could look like after 2021. However, a shared vision will be critical if Amisom is to deliver what it was designed to do – room for a stable Somalia.

Several steps could improve Amisom’s future operations. Recruiting new troop contributors from outside Somalia’s immediate vicinity could, for example, re-energize the troops and dilute the dominance of existing troop contributing countries – some of which have political interests in Somalia.

Clarity about the mission The funding could also be Make planning easier. In the past, donors wanted to see Amisom’s plans before they released funds. However, without a keen sense of the money available, the AU will struggle to come up with a convincing proposal. The EU should therefore give the AU an overview of its maximum budget, while the AU should try to diversify funding by lobbying other countries such as China, the Arab Gulf powers and Turkey, neither of which have an interest in withdrawing the mission has. The AU should also consider using its own budget to support the mission.

The biggest challenge, however, is Somali politics. In five years’ time, donors will face the dilemma they face today if Somalia’s elites remain divided. To this end, Somalia’s partners should renew and strengthen their diplomatic engagement in order to repair the tense ties between the Somali federal government and the member states. More controversial and taking into account the fact that the group’s military defeat is currently still a long way off, some form of engagement with al-Shabaab, or at least with parts of the group that is open to talks about the Islamist, must take place in the coming years Militants to join a political process.

Somalia’s financiers and partners face a difficult choice and not a good option. Despite all understandable concerns, however, the continuation of Amisom in any form is the only immediately viable means of averting a deterioration in the security situation in Somalia.

Amisom cannot stay in the country forever, but at least its continued presence would Giving the Somali government more time to carry out domestic reforms and get Somalia’s federal project up and running.

Omar Mahmood is the senior analyst for the International Crisis Group for Somalia.