Mogadishu, 29 August 2016 – The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia, Ambassador Francisco Madeira, on Monday urged international partners to increase their support to the Somali National Army (SNA), describing the fight against militant insurgency by Al-Shabaab as at a “critical stage.”
Speaking at the conclusion of a six-day meeting of Force Commanders of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the SNA, Ambassador Madeira said a needs assessment task undertaken by both AMISOM and the Somalia National Army (SNA) was complete.
“The next step requires concrete operational commitments, logistical commitments and intelligence gathering commitments. It is something that cannot be done by SNA alone, AMISOM or development partners alone. It is something that can be effectively and successfully done with convergence and concurrence of all the three stakeholders,” Ambassador Madeira observed.
Madeira said following the assessment task a committee would soon be established to determine the requirements of training camps to be set under the Guulwade Plan, launched by the Somali Ministry of Defence, which outlines the SNA’s arms and equipment needs for effective joint operations with AMISOM. Under the plan, a total of 10,900 SNA troops, comprising units from the regions, would receive support from international partners for participation in joint operations with AMISOM.
The conference was attended by the AMISOM Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Osman Noor Soubagleh; SNA Chief of Defence Forces, Maj. Gen. Mohamed Aden Ahmed; SNA Deputy Chief of Defence Forces Brig. Gen. Ali Bashi, UN representatives and other senior AMISOM and SNA officers.
“We have been planning and preparing to ascertain the conditions for execution of offensives to disrupt, degrade and deny Al-Shabaab their freedom of movement and access to safe havens across Somalia,” Gen. Soubagleh noted.
Speaking on behalf of his troops, the SNA Deputy Chief of Defence Forces Brig. Gen. Ali Bashi promised its full participation in joint operations.
“We take AMISOM as a reliable partner. We will improve the way in which we coordinate. We will build the level of trust and build further on the meetings that we have had by meeting more regularly at all levels,” Brig Bashi added.
The meeting was meant to foster cordial working relations between the officers and enhance collaboration in operations against Al-Shabaab.
African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) acting Force Commander Major General Mohamedesha Zeyinu has concluded an extensive tour of Sector 2, where he commended troops for their remarkable work in securing Somalia.
Maj-Gen. Mohamedesha visited troops in Dhobley, Bilis Qoqani and Kismayo to assess the situation on the ground, get apprised on security concerns, address administrative issues and the challenges facing the forces.
Addressing troops drawn from the Burundi National Defence Forces, Kenya Defence Forces and the Ethiopian National Defence Forces, the acting Force Commander said the secret in defeating Al Shabaab lay in planning and building close working relationship with the local community.
“The reason why we should build a strong relationship with the population is clear. If we handle the population well, they will be a good source of information and they will share the information with us. The more the population approaches us, the more the enemy will be isolated from the population. We will build a strong relation not only to benefit the population but ourselves”, the acting Force Commander said.
During the visit Maj-Gen Mohamedesha visited the Somali National Army (SNA) training camp and said AMISOM would support the force by offering them more training opportunities.
He noted that SNA forces were drawn from local communities and had a better understanding of the situation on the ground than their AMISOM counterparts. He encouraged closer working relationships between them and AMISOM troops.
‘’The other issue is about SNA, SNA Forces have an advantage as their understanding the area of operation well. They know the enemy and tactics, they know the terrain and moreover they know the culture and the norms of the society better than AMISOM Forces. Because of these capabilities we need to work closely with SNA so that we can differentiate, Isolate and decisively fight with Al shabaab”, Maj-Gen Mohamedesha added.
The acting Force Commander also met with Interim Jubba Administration President, Ahmed Mohamed Islam. The two discussed ways of dealing with Al Shabaab to liberate the little pockets still under the control of the terror group.
The first group of Ugandan soldiers expected to replace their colleagues who have completed a year’s tour of duty at the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have arrived in Somalia.
The soldiers, resplendent in their new army uniforms, jetted into Mogadishu Airport at 8:45am today, on board a Boeing 737 and were received by the Acting Uganda Contingent Commander, Col. Silvio Aguma, who also doubles as the commander of battle group 15, based in Arbiska. The new group is headed by Col. Bob Ogik.
Col. Aguma saluted the outgoing troops for a job well done and expressed optimism that the incoming group will also excel in their duties.
“They (outgoing soldiers) did a very commendable job. They were centered around Baraawe, that is where their area of operation was and the new battle group that is coming in, battle group 17, will exactly move to Baraawe and take over the responsibility of conducting security operations, maintaining and making sure that the main supply routes remain open,” said Col. Aguma.
The officer said it was very critical that the main supply routes remain open for both AMISOM personnel and people of Somalia to enable them continue with their day-to-day duties uninterrupted.
“I do hope that the incoming battle group 17, since they are still fresh from training, are going to perform even better than the battle group rotating out,” the Acting Uganda Contingent Commander said.
In an earlier briefing to the outgoing soldiers, moments before they boarded the same plane that brought in their counterparts from Entebbe, Uganda Col. Aguma urged caution and discipline.
“It was almost a year ago when you left Singo for this very important mission. You started with step one and you have covered a thousand kilometers and today you are marking the last step. When you reach back home please maintain the discipline that has seen all of you finish this mission successfully,” Col. Aguma said, while issuing the outgoing soldiers certificates.
Moments later, the visibly ecstatic soldiers, some waving and others flashing the thumbs up sign, in a single file marched and boarded the plane ready for a two- hour journey back home to rejoin their families.
Every battle group taking part in the peacekeeping mission serves for one year and has to rotate out once the tour of duty ends. Uganda is one of the troop contributing countries (TCCs) to the mission which seeks to rout the militant group, Al-Shabaab, in a bid to pacify and stabilize the hitherto war-torn horn of Africa country.
Other troop contributing countries are Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Burundi, all reinforcing the Somali National Army (SNA) in offensives against the Al-Shabaab.