Political reconciliation, humanitarian efforts, security and the ongoing fight against Al-Shabab were among key issues discussed by senior officials of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) during a visit to Baidoa, in the South West State of Somalia.
The high-level delegation led by the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia, Ambassador Mohamed El- Amine Souef and China’s Ambassador to Somalia, Fei Shengchao, met with South West State President, Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed and members of his administration and representatives of civil society groups on Tuesday.
“We discussed the security situation, territorial integrity, support for both the ongoing stabilization efforts launched by the Federal Government of Somalia and the fight against Al-Shabaab,” Ambassador Souef said after the closed-door meeting.
The discussions also touched on the upcoming ATMIS troop drawdown and the preparations underway to meet the June deadline.
The drawdown is in compliance with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 2628 and 2670 which requires ATMIS to reduce its forces and gradually hand over security responsibilities to the Somali Security Forces (SSF).
The delegation, comprising the newly arrived ATMIS Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Sam Okiding, ATMIS Police Commissioner Hillary Sao Kanu and ATMIS Deputy Force Commander in charge of Operations and Plans, Maj. Gen. Marius Ngendabanka also held separate meetings with the Ethiopian National Defence Force troops and Ghanaian Formed Police Unit (FPU) officers stationed in the Federal Member State’s administrative capital, Baidoa.
The two meetings focused on officers’ welfare, the security situation in the state and the ongoing ATMIS activities in the region.
“I am encouraged by what I heard from the South West State President, the local authorities and the regional Police Commissioner that ATMIS troops conduct daily joint operations with the local forces to secure the state. The operations are critical,” the SRCC noted.
Under the ATMIS military sectorization, Baidoa is the headquarters of Sector Three which is manned by Ethiopian troops. They work collaboratively with a contingent of Formed Police Unit (FPU) officers from Ghana and Individual Police Officers (IPOs).
Ambassador Souef commended the Ethiopian troops and Ghanaian police personnel for their remarkable contributions to security – degrading threats posed by Al Shabaab through tactical and routine operations, training and mentoring Somali Security Forces and securing population centres and all airport locations to facilitate both economic and humanitarian access.
“I am happy to hear that you are working collaboratively with Somali Security Forces (SSF) and the local administration authorities to coordinate joint operations. Well done to the Sector Commander, Brig. Gen. Besfat Fente Tegegn for his leadership and commitment to the ATMIS mandate”, said the SRCC and Head of ATMIS.
Echoing the SRCC’s remarks, ATMIS Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Okiding, said the meetings and engagements had been insightful and productive.
“We have identified the gaps and what we need to do to bridge those gaps. We are committed to ensuring a smooth transition,” said the ATMIS Force Commander.
China’s Ambassador to Somalia, Fei Shengchao, lauded ATMIS, Somali Security Forces and the South West State leadership for the commitment and collaboration to restore security and stability in the state. He reaffirmed China’s support for the ongoing security and peacebuilding efforts.
“We are committed and believe that no matter how hard it is, it is important that we invest together with Somalia and international partners in peace, stability and prosperity to support Africa,” said Ambassador Shengchao.
The Commander of Sector Three and ATMIS Ethiopian troops, Brig. Gen. Besfat Fente Tegegn, thanked the delegation for the visit and pledged his commitment to implementing the Missions’ mandate.
The delegation also included the Military Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Teggegn Kindu Gezu; the Advisor to the SRCC, Maj. Gen. Fidza Dludlu; the Ag. Head of Mission Support, Mathias Ngarambe, and the Civilian Chief of Staff, Kojo Brew Acquaisie just to mention a few.