The Ugandan government will soon hold more discussions with stakeholders on reducing its number of troops deployed in Somalia, a high ranking military officer has revealed.
This follows the United Nations Security Council’s decision to extend its authorization of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) until 31 May 2018 but also approving a reduction of its uniformed personnel to a maximum 21,626 by 31 December 2017.
UN said in a statement on August 30 that the move is aimed at the “gradual handover” of responsibilities to Somali security forces.
Unanimously adopting a new resolution, the Council decided that the downsizing – the first ever for the African-led operation – would include a minimum of 1,040 AMISOM police personnel and five Formed Police Units.
A further reduction (from the current maximum of 22,126) to 20,626 uniformed personnel by 30 October 2018 would follow, unless the Council decides to accelerate that pace, taking into account the capabilities of Somali security forces.
UPDF spokesperson Brig Richard Karemire said “The UNSC resolution is binding on us as a troop contributing countries on a UN-mandated mission.”
He added: “There will be more discussions on the shape that reduction will take in to ensure that gains made are preserved.”
This development comes at a time of increased concern that Somalia is currently unable to take charge of its security.
With increased bombings and attacks on AMISOM forces, many analysts believe Somalia remains fragile.
Speaking on Monday in Mogadishu, Ugandan contingent commander Brig Kayanja Muhanga admitted that Somalia still has a lot of problems that need to be addressed.
Among the outstanding problems he highlighted the persistent Clan rivalries in the sector, land ownership for agriculture and economic rivalries especially in Marka port.
“These conflicts have made the situation more volatile as Al-Shabaab has for many times used them to launch attacks on own forces,” he said.
The Contingent Commander also enumerated to the new Deputy Representative of AU Chairperson, Simon Mulongo, a number of existing challenges that continue to negatively impact on the mission in general such as; lack of Air capability by AMISOM, expanded area of operation visa vie inadequate number of personnel, poor conditions of Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs), extended lines of communication, poor road network, threat of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and the inadequate Defense stores to fortify own defensive positions among others.
Asked to explain where the UN move leaves Somalia’s security, Brig Karemire responded: “Tasks will be transferred from AMISOM to Somali Security forces in a gradual and conditions based manner In order to ensure that gains made are not reversed.”
He further emphasized that the reduction of troops in Somalia would not “jeopardize Uganda’s security.”
Long term strategy
On its part, UN emphasized that the long-term objective for Somalia is for the Somali Security Forces to assume full responsibility for security, with AMISOM remaining critical during the transition.
UN went ahead to assert that AMISOM’s strategic objectives would be to enable the gradual handover of its security responsibility to Somali security forces, to reduce the threat posed by Al-Shabaab and other armed opposition groups, and to assist Somali security forces in providing security for Somalia’s political process and peacebuilding efforts.
The Council decided that AMISOM’s priority tasks would be, among other efforts, to conduct targeted offensive operations against Al-Shabaab and other armed opposition groups, including jointly with the Somali security forces, and to mentor the latter in cooperation with the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and in line with national security structures.
It would reconfigure, as security conditions allowed, in favor of police personnel, and receive defectors on a transitory basis.