For the past 15 years, the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) has aided Somalia’s government in its war against al-Shabaab. The operation was set to terminate in December 2021, and an agreement has now been reached on what looks to be nothing more than a name change and an extension of the current mission.
The African Union (AU), the United Nations (UN), and the Somali government agreed that Amisom will be replaced by the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (AU Transition Mission in Somalia) on April 1. (Atmis). The new operation will last until the end of 2024, after which it will be handed over to the Somali Security Forces. The capacity of Atmis, which is roughly 18,000 military, 1,000 police officers, and 70 civilians, is similar to that of its predecessor, as is most of its mandate.Has anything changed since then that can help stabilise Somalia?
Amisom’s work started in March 2007, to degrade al-Shabaab and build the capacity of the Somali Security Forces, military and police so that the mission could eventually withdraw in 2021. The exit didn’t happen though, as the security threats that necessitated the deployment in the first place, continue.
Last year, the AU and UN undertook independent reviews to decide Amisom’s future, and numerous possibilities were offered. A new mission’s mandate, composition, size, strategic and specific objectives and tasks of the military, civilian, and police components all needed to be agreed upon.
The Somali government wants Atmis to concentrate on carrying out the Somalia Transition Plan. In 2018, Amisom devised a strategy to hand over security responsibilities to the country’s security services. It was just revised, and the next three years will be spent on it. This strategy was endorsed by the African Union and the United Nations. Atmis’ stabilization and state-building goals, according to Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, will be fully aligned with the Somalia Transition Plan.
The African Union’s Peace and Security Council outlined a mission for the new mission that included degrading al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups, providing security, developing the capacity of the security forces, justice and local authorities, and supporting peace and reconciliation. The UN Security Council is expected to approve the mandate and authorise Atmis at its 30 March meeting.
But Amisom’s mandate was also aligned with the Somalia Transition Plan, so there’s nothing new about Atmis in that regard.
According to Omar S Mahmood, Senior Analyst at the International Crisis Group, Atmis will only have a few minor variations. “Perhaps the most significant difference is that the concept of “transition” is now more deeply incorporated in the reasoning of the new mission, which has a four-phased timeframe for working with the Somali government to achieve the Somalia Transition Plan.
“A few lesser adjustments, such as re-alignment of Amisom’s sector organization and enhanced command-and-control authority under the mission’s force commander, are also expected, but they are expected to be minor.”