EDITORIAL: Somalia must carter for its own, but first a legitimate government

Uganda says Int'l partners are acting without coordination, and that this is causing problem [Photo: AFP]

EDITORIAL | There has been debate recently on just what form the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) should take after its mandate expires at the end of next month. Four proposals emerged in the last three months, most of which have been external suggestions.

Should Somalia accept a hybrid format that turns the Amisom into an AU-UN mission, with both military and political components? Should we terminate the mission and hand over the duties to Somalia immediately, should we extend its mandate which will mean another year of combat-only mission? Or should we introduce a totally new mission with troops contributed by countries other than those neighboring Somalia as it is today?

According to the Federal Government of Somalia, none of these suggestions take the interests of the country at heart. First, extending Amisom in any form means glossing over the Mission’s weaknesses for the last 13 years or so it has been in operation. Secondly, terminating the Mission without a clear transition plan risks exposing the benefits the Mission has brought Somalia, including routing al-Shabaab from key urban areas it once controlled and suffocated local populations and hence creating a vacuum the militants can easily fill.

The suggestion most favored by Somalia is that the partners adopt a Transition Plan which will gradually grant obligations for Somalia security to local security forces as they are progressively given capacity. The Plan envisions a situation where Somalia’s forces will be multiplied through support from partners to train and equip, and that the UN Security Council will start lifting the arms embargo imposed on Somalia to allow the forces to be modernized. In short; there should be no abrupt end to the Mission, but there should be an agreeable plan that will ensure Somalia retains the leading role in the transition.

As it is, most Somalia stakeholders, if not all, agree that Amisom has had its achievements which include propping up the then transitional government in Mogadishu, defeating the militants in key towns like Kismayu, and forcing the group to change tac from the usual combat to suicide missions. But the Mission has also brought us trouble which has included the never-ending external interference in Somali affairs as well as failure to rebuild institutions where Shabaabs were defeated.

But moving to discuss the future of Amisom requires that only competent authorities do that. So far, the Federal Government of Somalia, in its caretaker form, isn’t exactly a competent authority. For Somalia to show the world that it is ready to start taking over its own duties, we must be clear that elections should be a priority to put in place e=relevant officers to adopt and implement the new plan.

A Somalia that is stuck in the roundabout about who will be the next President or who will be in parliament may have a weaker bargaining chip when it comes to negotiating a replacement for Amisom. We are clear as everyone else that al-Shabaab is the most dangerous threat to the existence of Somalia, way ahead of any foreign manipulation.

But we can defeat the enemy through small gains such as instituting a free and fair election which can garner the needed legitimacy to push for the Somalia agenda. It was pleasant to hear that the elections for parliamentarians in the Lower House will start on November 16 and end on December 26. This will still be late by a year. But it can be welcomed if indeed authorities follow through.

In the meantime, unless and until Somalia can quickly put in office new holders with legitimacy, the debate on Amisom will continue to be skewed.


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