HornDiplomat-The African Union (AU) plans to withdraw its troops from Somalia by the end of 2020. The exit strategy is for the Federal Somali Republic to takeover the responsibilities of security for its territory, so the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) can come to an end.
With this new deadline in mind, AMISOM aims to recapture all territorial strongholds from al-Shabaab by October 2018. This will give way to a transitional period, where AU troops handover to their Somali counterparts. The AU mission was initiated in 2007 as part of international efforts to support a new government in Mogadishu. Ethiopia had just intervened to defeat the Union of Islamic Courts, only for an Islamist insurgency to take hold in the form of al-Shabaab. Kenya and Uganda have become key partners in the counter-insurgency.
Although the AU forces have made significant gains against the jihadis, AMISOM has faced major challenges this year. Uganda and Kenya have both threatened to withdraw support, and in the case of Uganda backtracked on withdrawal. The European Union has reduced support for the mission by 20%, arguing that African governments should bear the burden. In fact, AU forces have sometimes had to go months without pay.
Since Somalia collapsed into civil war in 1991, the country has split into regional governments. In effect, Galmudug and Puntland govern themselves, but they have not taken the same path as Somaliland, which has pursued outright independence.
Officially, Somalia was supposed to hold national elections this year – the first since 1967 – but is instead going to hold a ‘limited franchise’ election, which will limit who can participate in the vote. The UN now hopes a one-person-one-vote election will be possible in 2020.
Even after a decade of AU operations, al-Shabaab remains a potent security threat. The group seized an AU base at el-Adde in January, reportedly killing 180 Kenyan soldiers. This attack was achieved despite the jihadis losing territory in recent years.
Currently the Somali federal army is more a collection of clan militias, with various international troops providing training to different units, South Africa’s News 24 reports.