The newly elected leader of Somalia President Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo, has offered a glimmer of hope in the plan by African peacekeepers to quit the country by December 2020.
There is a general optimism within the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) rank and file, that President Farmaajo who was elected on February 8, is likely to unite his country’s security forces — divided on regional and clan lines – faster than was anticipated.
The president enjoys considerable support across the country based on his short stint as prime minister from 2010 to 2011, when civil servants and security agencies were paid regularly. This will make it easier for Amisom to raise sufficient numbers for the Somalia National Army (SNA) to take over the security of the country.
In an interview with The EastAfrican in Mogadishu, the chairperson of the AU Peace and Security Council, Ntshinga Ndimisu, said that the election of the new president and appointment of a new government gives room for training more Somalis to take care of their country’s security because Amisom did not go into Somalia to stay forever.
“It is now our responsibility to assist the Somali people set up structures that will safeguard their sovereignty. The responsibility of returning Somalia to normalcy is primarily a project of the AU and we must ensure that the country does not slide back once Amisom leaves,” said Mr Ndimisu.
He, however, said that although the war against Al Shabaab has succeeded to a very large extent by breaking the militant’s hold on key towns, there is still a lot of work to be done because Amisom’s exit strategy will depend on how fast it can train and equip sufficient numbers of the SNA and police.
“I am not under any illusion that we will get the target of 30,000 for SNA within a short time. It is a process that will take into account what is doable because we cannot leave Somalia in a vacuum. However, SNA has already been involved in a number of operations across the country and it is not that we are starting a new army that does not exist,” he said.
Mr Ndimisu — who last Thursday, March 23 laid a wreath in Mogadishu in honour of soldiers who have died since Amisom entered Somalia in March 2007 — said that Amisom is working with a common training doctrine to ensure that security forces share a vision on how to secure Somalia in a new set-up.
Amisom is due to start withdrawal in the last quarter of 2018 and exit the country completely by December 2020, handing over to SNA. But the SNA has been unable to hold on to liberated areas by providing security and providing basic amenities such as health, education and shelter due to insufficient numbers.
According to Mr Ndimisu, the countries contributing police are already involved in training the Somali police force as part of the ultimate exit strategy and by the time Amisom leaves Somalia, the country must be able to look after itself.
A Special Somalia Conference is scheduled to be held in May in London, where donors are expected to volunteer more funds in support of the new government, including more funds for training the SNA.
Already, the AU had in January requested the United Nations Security Council to authorise additional 4,500 soldiers to help liberate areas still under Al Shabaab such as Jubba valley.