Museveni suggests stronger AMISOM mandate to fight Al Shabab

At present, the mission’s main task is to protect the isolated patches of the capital, Mogadishu, that are still held by Somalia’s weak Transitional Federal Government. In his opening speech to the summit Sunday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni called on the continent’s leaders to unite against those responsible for the attacks. “Let us work in concert to sweep them out of Africa,” Mr. Museveni said at the African Union summit. By “work in concert” Museveni means boosting the number of troops deployed to the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and strengthening the mission’s mandate so that it can go on the offensive against Al Shabab.

“These reactionary groups have now committed aggression against our  country,” Museveni said in a separate statement released ahead of the  meeting. “We shall now go after them.”

The call for a new offensive comes on the back of recent reports that – even given its currently limited mandate – AMISOM has been indiscriminately shelling civilian areas in Mogadishu and sparked fears of more civilian casualties.

Plagued by funding, payment, and personnel problems, it has taken AMISOM three years to reach just over three quarters of itsmandated 8,000 strength.Despite previous pledges to contribute troops from Nigeria, Ghana, and Malawi, the only two countries to have actually sent troops are Uganda and Burundi.

More troops to SomaliaIn the aftermath of the bomb attacks, Museveni pledged to send an extra 2,000 troops to the mission, finally boosting it to full strength. Museveni also backed calls from east African regional body the Intergovernmental Agency for Development,or IGAD, to raise final troop numbers to 20,000.

Now there seems to be some movement from other African countries. Guinea and Djibouti will likely send troops to supplement the AMISOM force, and eventual troop strength could top 10,000, AU President Jean Ping announced late last week. A battalion of Guinean troops is ready to go to Mogadishu, Ping said. They are just waiting for transport to be provided, a series of research trips to be completed, and Guinea to be reinstated to the African Union after it was suspended following a military coup in 2008.

President Obama’s envoy to the summit, Attorney General Eric Holder, promised in a speech to the African leaders to “maintain” – but not increase – support for the AU’s Somali mission. Since 2007, the US has given support worth over $176 million to the mission and intends to giveUgandan and Burundian troops “enhanced pre-deployment training” to help tackle Al Shabab, the state department says.

EU officials at the meeting – responsible for funding the $750 monthly allowances for each AMISOM soldier – said that the current €47 million budget for the second half of 2010 was meant to support 6,000 troops butthat money could be shifted around to cover any new deployment.

But Aidan Hartley in the NYT warns that a military build up is not the solution:

Mogadishu’s battlefield has become a stalemate, Al Shabab’s ranks show fresh internal divisions, popular support has ebbed and rival militias have mobilized against the extremists. Finding an outside target — especially in Kampala, the capital of a nation that provides troops for the African mission — was a means for Al Shabab to get back in the game.

What Mr. Roobow wants, as I witnessed on the road in Somalia, is a war against an alien enemy that will bring him international prestige and jihadi money before his group’s forces implode and his country’s people turn on him. The Uganda bombing is another reason the West has to find an intelligent diplomatic path out of Somalia’s crisis. A military backlash would give Mukhtar Roobow exactly the ammunition that he is looking for.

2 Responses

  1. Dear The LIFT,
    Where can I get the Museveni’s opening speech in full?

  2. Sorry, don’t have the speech.

    Related. On Eritrea:

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