Time to audit AMISOM’s performance before it is too late -UM

Family photo of AMISOM Summit leaders and donors/Google

Mogadishu (UM) – AMISOM has reached its 10th anniversary in Somalia this year and Al-Shabaab, while weakened, is not yet defeated. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has a single aim which is to assist the Somali National Security Forces (SNSF) rid the country of the insecurity posed by Al-Shabaab. Yet, despite 10 years of effort, Al-Shabaab is still operational and increasingly more assertive in its fewer violent acts against both the government and AMISOM.

Security has been successive Somali government’s priority and President Mohmed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo has made clear in almost every speech that all other reforms will not take shape unless full security is restored to Somalia. In his address to AMISOM Troop Contributing Countries in Uganda last week, he told both the African Union and international partners, including the EU which is the single largest financial supporter of AMISOM, that Somali must be assisted to take the lead on its own security. In his speech, President Farmaajo challenged AMISOM and the Somali National Security Forces to take the fight to Al-Shabaab and liberate the remaining territories in their hands. However, it was clear that the real discussions surrounded the AMISOM withdrawal plan and their financing by international partners who are tired of the slow pace of progress.

President Farmaajo is right in his argument that he cannot rush to enforce an exit timetable on AMISOM while the Somali National Security Forces are so weak and disorganised. It is also not possible for him to advocate for AMISOM to be financed indefinitely by donors with other priorities and, who are asked to contribute to more international crises including Yemen, Iraq, Central African Republic and Syria by the UN while facing economic uncertainty and stagnation at home.

The Operational Readiness Assessment of the Somali National Army and Police Force highlighted gaps in financing, training and professionalism on the part of both security organisations. In his speech in Entebbe last week, President Farmaajo promised to address these. However, he stopped short of requesting a performance audit of AMISOM by the international community which supports them. If the Somali National Security Forces can be audited, why can’t AMISOM?

For too long there was an air of silence and respect on the part of the Somali government when it came to challenging AMISOM on performance. As soon as the idea of a performance review surfaced, a big diplomatic push would be mounted by the Troop Contributing Countries and out of guilt and weakness, the Somali side would back down after vague promises of better coordination and performance from AMISOM and the African Union Peace and Security Commission. This is no longer acceptable. It is a shame that it is taking more than a decade for over 20,000 well paid and equipped AMISOM soldiers and Police and a similar number of Somali National Army to finish off a group that is estimated by most experts to be no more than 5,000. These numbers and the slow pace of any progress defies logic even if Al-Shabaab is using asymmetric warfare as AMISOM commanders like to explain again and again.

The Somali people will never forget the sacrifice of their soldiers and those of AMISOM who paid the ultimate price in pursuit of Somalia’s security. Yet, it is a betrayal of these brave men and women’s efforts for this insecurity to continue for so long.  What did they die for?

Now, AMISOM performance review and operational audit is a must because there is the real risk that they will leave without accomplishing their mission when the European Union and other partners withdraw their financing after years of frustration in the future. This would be a great betrayal and failure on the part of the African Union against a founding member state.  The mantra that there must be African solutions for African problems is great, but what is more important than this rhetoric is the implementation of security, as agreed, by the African Union Forces in Somalia alongside their Somali partners for whom they are responsible to train and lead. Submitting to an external audit and review would allow for the redirecting of operations and strengthening of trust between the Somali government, donors and AMISOM.

What an audit of AMISOM operational readiness would highlight is most likely to be similar to what the Somali Operational Readiness Assessments showed. It is no secret that AMISOM is working in national Silos and not operationally connected, that they take orders not from a centralised command in Somalia but their own capitals and  that their soldiers are not all combat ready and have come to Somalia “to earn some money” as one soldier guarding the airport from AMISOM informed an UM undercover reporter this week. Moreover, some AMISOM soldiers are engaged in corruption and accepting “EVC” from Somali citizens while reselling their tax-exempt rations into the Somali market. These obvious shortcomings are costing too much, hurting confidence in the Somali government, undermining the AMISOM mission itself and making donors very impatient with both AMISOM and the Somali government. They are also robbing vital time for training and financing opportunities for the Somali National Security Forces. The sooner these obstacles are in the open, the sooner they can be addressed honestly by all stakeholders.

The Somali National Security Architecture makes clear that the Somali Federal Government and its Federal member states are responsible for Somalia’s security. They on their part, must firmly request and supervise the AMISOM performance review while addressing their very own shortcomings including training, financing and operationalising the Somali Security forces. The leaders of the Somali Security forces must also stop bickering pointlessly and rise to the challenge of fulfilling their mandate effectively. They must take the fight to Al-Shabaab and defeat them. Anything short of this will ensure that the National Security Architecture is nothing more than empty words written on a worthless piece of paper. The implication of this for Somali security, pride and development will be devastating an irreversible.