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Monday, January 10, 2011

Time Running Out for African Union Mission in Somalia

By Brenda Sorensen
IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
January 10, 2011
STOCKHOLM (IDN) - In spite of the declared support by the United States, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has since its deployment to Mogadishu in March 2007 failed to bring peace and stability to the failed state, but time is running out to find an alternative, says a new study.

Somalia has been since the ouster of President Siad Barre in 1991 and the ensuing civil war without an effective central government. Two regional administrations exist in northern Somalia -- the self-declared 'Republic of Somaliland' in the northwest and the semi-autonomous state of Puntland in the northeast.

The current internationally recognized federal government of Somalia is the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). It includes a transitional president, prime minister, and a cabinet known as the 'Council of Ministers'. For administrative purposes, Somalia is divided into 18 regions. The nature, authority, and structure of regional governments vary.

TFG was established as one of the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) of government as defined in the Transitional Federal Charter (TFC) adopted in November 2004 by the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP). The Charter outlines a five-year mandate leading toward the establishment of a permanent government following national elections in 2009, explains the U.S. State Department describing the situation in Somalia.

In January 2009, the TFP extended this mandate an additional two years to 2011 and expanded to include 200 members of Parliament (MPs) from the opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia and 75 MPs from civil society and other groups, doubling the size of the TFP to 550 MPs. Consideration of a constitution continues.

"Not only has AMISOM continued to suffer heavy casualties but several non-governmental organizations have accused it of killing hundreds of civilians through indiscriminate shelling of residential areas," says Africa scholar Paul D. Williams in a report published by the prestigious Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

He adds: "Whatever its mandate, AMISOM has become a counterinsurgency operation fighting to prop up an unreliable government that is scarcely present, let alone accepted, throughout Somalia. And it is carrying out this difficult and dangerous task with little solid international commitment. As Ban Ki-moon has pointed out, it is high time for the world's governments to decide AMISOM's future."

Williams, who is associate professor and deputy director of the Security Policy Studies MA program in the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University, USA, finds it "hardly surprising" that AMISOM's four years in the capital city of Mogadishu have made little difference to Somalia's conflict dynamics. If anything, it appears to have provided a focal point for the insurgency.

"Nominally a peace support operation, AMISOM's main role has become protecting Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG). This has left it in an odd position: it is delivering humanitarian assistance to some residents of Mogadishu while simultaneously trying to counter an insurgency led by al-Shabab that is fond of employing terrorist tactics," writes Williams.

The study recalls that in the wake of terrorist bombings in Kampala on July 11, 2010 the African Union (AU) and the East African regional organization the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) declared that they would bolster AMISOM's personnel numbers up to 20,000 troops and 1680 police.

A revised concept of operations was developed for the mission in September 2010 along with a phased deployment plan for the new troops, which includes positioning AMISOM troops outside Mogadishu.

Williams points out that the AU has called on the United Nations to pay these peacekeepers' allowances from its assessed contributions and urged the Security Council to 're-hat' AMISOM as a UN operation and impose a naval blockade and no-fly zone over Somalia to stem the flow of foreign fighters and weapons fuelling the violence.

Putting his weight behind these proposals, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged the Security Council to take the 'bold and courageous decisions necessary' to strengthen AMISOM.

"These new plans are quite a stretch from where AMISOM stands today," says Williams in the report posted on the website of SIPRI in December 2010. He adds: "It has only in the past few weeks (in December 2010) reached its original authorized strength of 8000 troops (from Burundi and Uganda) with Guinea pledging to deploy a further battalion. AMISOM’s police contingent has been even more under-resourced, now comprising just 50 officers (although Angola has offered to contribute to training the Somali police force)."

On the whole, AMISOM lacks the tools and mandate to do either job effectively. "It is confined to parts of just one city and has barely begun the difficult process of winning the hearts and minds of the local population. Unless dynamics on the ground change in fundamental ways, counterinsurgency would also be the primary task of any new UN mission."

To have any hope of success in counterinsurgency, states Williams, AMISOM would need at least two things: a reliable local partner that has the support of the civilian population, and a broad and strong international consensus supporting a more coercive mandate.

However, the TFG has failed in almost every respect to be such a partner. §It has been virtually paralyzed by internal conflicts and has failed to build durable alliances outside Mogadishu. It has not delivered reliable services to Mogadishu's desperate civilians and has regularly failed to pay its own security forces. Neither has it been able to push insurgents out of the capital."

Indeed, for most of its existence the current incarnation of the TFG has struggled to hold even those areas it inherited from its predecessor in 2009. There is also reportedly considerable mistrust and lack of coordination between AMISOM and TFG security forces.

Williams is of the view that the biggest factor going for the TFG is the international recognition it has received and the resulting political and economic benefits. "Yet locally this has fostered the idea that the TFG is more accountable to, and dependent on, external governments and international organizations than it is to the Somali people."

But legitimate governments are built on strong societal foundations, from the bottom up, not by external recognition flowing from the top down, says the study.

Rather than trying to impose a unified national government, which most Somalis have always seen as a foreign construct serving largely foreign interests, the Africa scholar Williams suggest that external actors should help engineer the political space necessary for Somali-led peace processes at the local and regional levels that emphasize accountability and reconciliation.

Williams also regrets that there is not much evidence of strong and widespread international support for either AMISOM’s original mission or the new proposals. "While citing Somalia as a pressing regional security concern, the vast majority of African governments have refused to deploy personnel to AMISOM, despite repeated pleas from the AU Commission. Most have cited the lack of any peace to keep, the lack of logistical capacity and the lack of funds."

Beyond Africa, support for AMISOM has arrived in dribs and drabs: the UN has provided a logistical support package; several countries have contributed to a trust fund for AMISOM; the Italian and Swedish governments have provided funds for over 3000 TFG security officers; the European Union has set up a training mission for TFG troops in Uganda, writes Williams.

According to the U.S. State Department, as of October 2010, the U.S. Government had obligated over 229 million USD to support AMISOM with equipment, logistical support, and peacekeeping training. U.S. equipment support has included armoured personnel carriers, trucks, communications equipment, water purification devices, generators, tents, and night vision equipment.

Logistical support has included airlift, food, fuel, medical supplies, and medical evacuation flights, says the State Department, adding: "The U.S. Government has provided peacekeeping training to the Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers through the Department of State's Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program."

Nevertheless, says Williams, as of June 2010, only 56 per cent of the Consolidated Appeal for Somalia had been mobilized. "This suggests an ominous lack of international concern about the fate of the more than 3 million Somalis needing humanitarian assistance."

The study concludes: Indeed, during 2010 the UN Security Council spent far more time discussing what to do about Somali pirates than the problems on the mainland. AU Commission Chair Jean Ping has quite correctly characterized the international response to Somalia’s crisis as 'belated … partial … and inadequate'. (IDN-InDepthNews/09.01.2011).


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