AMISOM is Leaving Somalia Without National Army

Soldiers from the Uganda People's Defence Force, part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) leave for Uganda after they ended their tour of duty in Somalia on November 08 2015. AMISOM Photo

Somalia can boast of 20,000 men as part of its army and pro-government fighters, a new statistic by AMISOM shows.

The statistic is part of the key findings contained in the Operational Readiness Assessment (ORA) report handed over to the federal Minister of Internal Security, Mohamed Abukar Islow, by the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia, Ambassador Francisco Madeira.

The 60-page report categorized most of the forces as non-members of the official federal government forces. “In South West and Jubbaland State, the forces have fought alongside the Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops to dislodge Al-Shabaab in various regions and protect communities,” ambassador Madeira said.

Yesterday’s unveiled statistics sparked a debate in Somalia on the countries readiness to have its own national forces when the AMISOM term ends next year. There have been several attempts to constitute the national army, but the effort was frustrated by mistrust among regional states.

The last time, for instance, an attempt was made to set up a national force Puntland administration listed military officers in their 50’s instead of sending young officers to serve in the national army. The plan has since gone mute, at least for now.

However, attempts to relive the idea still remains a politically correct option in Somalia because the last time such an attempt was made, a huge pull of officers and resources were harnessed and analyst who spoke to Somali Affairs believe that it just needs a strike in the right chord.

In the decades that followed the country’s independence, politicians stoked nationalist sentiment in the name of a Greater Somalia, the country sought to build a formidable army, known locally as “The Lions of Africa,” with Soviet assistance. At the time, military academies in the country were so well resourced they had tanks to spare for practical training.

Despite being ill-equipped, most of the Somali army personnel are well trained albeit by different countries, causing confusion on simple commands as salutations and chain of commands.

Turkey, United Arabs Emirates, Britain, the US, and Egypt are among the countries training the Somali National Army. Others are Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.

In 2016, Somalia made a road-map to train and list 22,000 men as part of the federal government’s plan to set up the elusive national army. The plan projects Somalia will have at least 18,000 regular troops and 4,000 special forces.

Lack resources to keep the forces in the barracks and poor and sometimes delayed monthly dues are some of the reasons the government might fail to recruit even half of their projected 22,000 Somali armies set to fill the void when the AMISOM forces leave the country next year.

In 2017 at the height of the Qatar-Gulf diplomatic crisis, Somalia received $50 million from the Saudis to support the Somali army. However, there’s no channel to verify whether the fund was wired in aid of the army due to the country’s dysfunctional central bank and lack of structures to facilitate checks and balances.

In mid last year, the United Nations Security Council voted to extend AMISOM’s term in Somalia until May next year.  It remains to be seen if the country will seek an extension of the AMISOM forces, or the Somali National Army will become a reality.