A new study report has emerged approximating that nearly 1,600 AMISOM soldiers have been killed in the war-torn Somalia, a much lower figure than widely reported over the last few years.
The study by the New York based International Peace Institute (IPI), through its Global Observatory Publication, is basing its latest estimates primarily on the recently published financial statements from the African Union (AU) for the years 2014 to 2018.
The new figure of 1587 fatalities was arrived at by summing the estimated 439 deaths suffered by Amisom by 2012, and the 1148 estimated fatalities suffered from 2014 to 2018.
These estimates are derived from the AU’s financial statements on AMISOM’s death and disability compensation payments between August 2009 and September 2012 and from 2014 to 2018.
The AU doesn’t publish any information about AMISOM causalities. It only leaves the decision to release this information to the respective troop-contributing countries (TCCs).
To date however, no AMISOM TCC has publicly released a comprehensive list of their personnel killed in Somalia.
But according to Paul D Williams who authored the IPI report published this week, plausible estimates can be drawn from the AU financials, which indicate exactly the amount that was paid out as compensation to the families of casualties, as well as those that were wounded in battle.
From the information in the AU’s financial statements on AMISOM’s death and disability compensation payments between August 2009 and September 2012, Dr Williams estimated that that AMISOM suffered 439 fatalities, that is, 22 in 2009, 59 in 2010, 298 in 2011, and 60 in 2012.
“The AU financial records from August 2009 to September 2012 show that death compensation payments of $50,000 were made for these 439 fatalities. But there was also an additional $5,779,000 paid out in disability compensation, almost always in payments of $10,000 for each of the approximately 575 injured soldiers. For the 37 months from August 2009 to September 2012, therefore, the AU spent $27,729,000 on death and disability compensation. Of this total, 79 percent was spent on death compensation and 21 percent on disability compensation,” the report says.
The more recent AU Financial statements released in 2017 and 2018, however show that amount paid out in death and disability increased from $27,729,000 to $74,624,000 between 2014 and 2018
“If we assume a similar proportion of death and disability compensation in these payments as were evident in those made between August 2009 and September 2012, this would mean 79 percent was spent on death compensation ($58,952,960) and 21 percent on disability compensation ($15,671,040),” the report says.
“This would equate to approximately 1,179 payments of $50,000 for deceased personnel and 1,567 payments of $10,000 for injured personnel.
A 50:50 split between fatality and injury payments would suggest 746 fatalities and 3,731 injured peacekeeper payments.
But Mr Williams suggests the 79% fatality rate is more reliable due to a number of factors.
“Given AMISOM’s numerous remote forward operating bases, the mission’s limited capacity for rapid casualty evacuation (partly owing to a lack of rapid response forces and appropriate helicopters), and the relatively poor state of its medical facilities, a ratio of approximately 3 killed for every 4 wounded peacekeepers is plausible (the 79:21 ratio),” Williams says in the report.
“It is also very close to the actual killed to wounded ratio that occurred between August 2009 and September 2012.”
Uganda has been a leading contributor to the AMISOM peace keeping mission and was the very first troops contributing country at its inception in 2007.
Indeed, of the 10 AMISOM Commanders since 2007 Uganda has contributed 7, the latest being Lt Gen Jim Owoyesigire, who last year handed over to Ethiopia’s Lt. Gen. Tigabu Yilma Wondimhunegn.
UPDF speaks out
Commenting on the new IPI report, UPDF spokesman Brig Richard Karemire said the Ugandan army was cognizant of the risks involved before committing to join the mission.
“We salute the great sacrifices of families whose dear ones paid the ultimate in pursuit of a just Pan Africanist cause in Somalia,” said Karemire.
“We were fully aware and conscience that restoring peace and stability in that brotherly country was never to be easy and priceless.”
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
In the IPI report, Mr Williams chastised the AU policy of not providing information about AMISOM causalities.
“I maintain that this is not a good policy for two main reasons. First, all peacekeepers who make the ultimate sacrifice should have their service publicly recognized. Not doing so is not only immoral, but it is likely to have a negative effect on morale and could put their next of kin in a difficult position when it comes to claiming the financial compensation they are entitled to. This is presumably part of the reason why the AU recently erected the memorial wall,” he said.
“Second, not releasing full details about peacekeeper deaths in Somalia plays into al-Shabaab’s hands, who are often able to dominate the media terrain in the absence of an authoritative and trusted AU or AMISOM voice.”
On this however, Karemire, says families of the deceased have always been prioritized when it comes to casualties’ information.
“While full details of casualties have not been made very public, families have always been the first to be informed and Comrades given descent send off at their ancestral places. The AU has also followed through its commitments to the departed martyrs after carefully going through all procedure.,” he said.