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International and regional officials demand sweeping changes in Amisom's structure and mandate ahead of a key UN meeting next month
Launched in 2007 to fight the Islamist insurgents of Al Shabaab, the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) is being torn apart as its host pushes back against regional and international demands for reform. President Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed 'Farmajo' wants the Amisom mandate to end on 22 March, when its current UN Security Council mandate expires. After that he wants all military aid to be channelled directly through the federal government in Mogadishu.
The European Union (EU), the mission's main funder, wants major structural reform and the African Union (AU) wants to widen the range of countries involved in the mission.
In March, the UN Security Council is due to decide the fate of the mission: whether it will survive or be given a wider mandate (AC Vol 63 No 1, Farmajo's dangerous trade-off & Vol 63 No 3, The on-off elections are back on). The troop-contributing countries, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Djibouti, have asked for Amisom to be transformed into a multi-dimensional force, which Somalia has refused. Tunisian, Rwandan and Egyptian troops are set to join the mission.
President Farmajo had initially rejected AU proposals to create an African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) with a similar mandate to Amisom. That mission would prepare the transition and hand over security duties to Somalia in 2023 – a timetable few regard as realistic.
Josep Borrell, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, says that Brussels will no longer fund the Mission based on its old structure that focused on combat and troops on the ground. Instead, he wants more emphasis on rebuilding political and security institutions.
'These efforts – financial effort on one side and military effort on the other – have not given enough results and I think that Amisom has to be reviewed,' said Borrell during a two-day trip to East Africa in the week ending 5 February.
Funding pressures over the mission's mandate and expiry dates have also prompted arguments over troop numbers. The EU, which has been funding 90% of the mission's operational budget, cut troop allowances by 20% in 2016, while delayed payments triggered threats by troop-contributing countries to pull out.
There are also more questions about the effectiveness of the Amisom mission in fighting Al Shabaab, particularly in the countryside in south-central Somalia. Local people accused of collaborating with Amisom are often directly targeted.
After a decade and a half some officials see Amisom more as a holding force rather than an effective counter-insurgency operation. 'We don't want to abandon Somalia. We don't want to stop financing Amisom, but we need to review how it works in order to ensure that results are better,' said Borrell.
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