The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has kicked off plans for gradual reduction of troops in the Horn of Africa nation.
Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission (DSRCC) for Somalia, Simon Mulongo on Saturday urged AMISOM military commanders to implement the transition plan in line with the UN Security Council resolution on gradual reduction of troops serving in Somalia.
Mulongo said the transition process would require doubling of efforts to further degrade and defeat the al-Shabab to a level that it cannot pose serious threat to the Somali national security forces.
“Everything we are doing now should be geared towards transition.
“The way you plan in your sectors, the way you plan in your units and other formations should be geared towards transition,’’ he said in a statement issued by the AU mission.
Mulongo made the remarks during a sector commanders’ conference to discuss issues related to the transition and transfer of security responsibilities to the Somali national security forces as mandated by the UN Security Council late 2017.
The AU mission is expected to gradually reduce the number of its troops in Somalia and reconstitute its forward operating bases with the cooperation of the Somali national security forces to ensure national security is not compromised during the transition period.
Mulongo reiterated that AMISOM is focused on implementing the transition plan and urged troops to readjust their strategies in the fight against al-Shabab insurgents.
“How do we empower the local forces; how do we empower the local people so that they take over responsibility,’’ he said.
The AU official said the first phase of the transition plan would last four years and success would be measured against the ability of the country to conduct peaceful and secure one-person-one-vote elections in 2020.
He noted that it would be a major milestone if successful the AU mission will draw down by 1,000 in October.
“That is a milestone, which we know, there must be therefore, reconfiguring of AMISOM in such a way that it must be able to defend itself with fewer troops because 1,000 drew down last year,’’ Haji Ssebirumbi, the AMISOM Senior Political Affairs Officer, said.
However, experts have said AMISOM’s exit is pegged on the ability of the Somali National Security Forces, particularly the Somalia National Army (SNA) to ably take over the security of the country.
Some Western countries including the U.S. have expressed concern that Somalia’s security forces will not be ready by then.
AMISOM is comprised troops drawn from Burundi, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya who are deployed in six sectors covering south and central Somalia.