The African Union Commission decided to increase the ceiling of AMISOM [African Union Mission to Somalia] personnel to about 17,700, so as to include Djibouti forces, re-hatted Kenyan troops and an AMISOM police component, as well as the deployment of extra Burundi and Uganda troops, as reported on Saturday in this blog.

The AU is expected to present the plan to the Security Council next Wednesday, as the UN covers the cost of the AMISOM’s budget.

However, the funding won’t include the Ethiopian National Defence Forces(ENDF) that joined the battle as per the request of the regional bloc, IGAD. [Note that four of the seven members of IGAD – Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Kenya – have troops in Somalia.]

Following the decision, AU’s Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra was quoted by the media as saying that:

"We have been working on a new strategic concept that will take [into account] the new situation on the ground, the game changers, the forced withdrawal of Shabab from Mogadishu, the new achievements thanks to the initiative by Kenya, TFG [Transitional Federal Government of Somalia] in the south, the new also promising initiative taken by Ethiopia in support of TFG with Beledweyne being liberated," Lamamra said.

"The new size is based on two assumptions. First, that enablers and force multipliers would be provided to AMISOM, including tactical and transport helicopters. Second assumption, that the Somali security and police force would be empowered. So it means that you will have AMISOM 17,700 and Somali security force, and police, which would represent the equivalent of AMISOM on the ground," Lamamra said.

All of the additional AMISOM manpower will consist of Kenyan troops already on the ground. They will be converted to the AMISOM command.

Despite the key role played by Ethiopian troops in the Beledweyne victory, and the lead role Addis Ababa has played in the overall fight against al-Shabab, Ethiopia has said it will not join AMISOM. Lamamra says Ethiopian commanders have indicated they expect their stay in Somalia to be brief.

"Ethiopia is helping both AMISOM and the TFG to achieve certain strategic results in the region and once that is being done, AMISOM will take over from Ethiopia and Ethiopia comes back home. There has never been any problem about that," Lamamra said.

Another news, by CSMonitor, stated that:

"Together with Transitional Federal Government forces the town of Beledwyne has been liberated from al-Shabaab," Communications Minister Bereket Simon said on Jan. 3.

The arrival of Ethiopian troops from the west – who officially left in 2009 after deposing the Islamic Courts in a 2.5 year campaign – buttresses the efforts of Ugandan, Burundian, Djiboutian and Kenyan forces, all now fighting under the banner of the African Union.

Unlike the Kenyans, who initially independently entered southern Somalia in October, Bereket says Ethiopia has no intention of becoming part of the African Union operation – and so receiving funds for their efforts from the European Union and others. This self-reliant stance backs up official statements it has no intention of staying for long.

Despite the prudent ring to the ENDF’s job description – ‘helping both AMISOM and the TFG to achieve certain strategic results’ then handover the territories to AMISOM , it is equally vague.

ENDF troops have already been in Somalia for about two weeks, according to official reports.

It is not clear whether the Ethiopian government reached a consensus with AMISOM troop contributing countries and other stakeholders on clear benchmarks concerning the extent of ENDF’s engagement.

If past experience is an indicator, months will go by before AMISOM acquires the personnel and finance needed to boost its capacity, hence be able to take charge of the territories captured by ENDF.

The fear that Al-Shabaab could exploit Ethiopia’s presence to mobilize supporters could serve as a reason for shortening ENDF’s engagement. But that is hardly a sufficient reason not to seek international funding for the period ENDF spends in Somalia, however short it may be. To the contrary, it might motivate stakeholders boost AMISOM’s capacity sooner.

It is to be recalled that in December 2006 ENDF launched an offensive that dismantled UIC (Union of Islamic Courts), an umbrella organization which included Al-Shabaab, in a few days.

However, the military operation was extended for about two years, helping the UN-recognized government of Somalia get on its feet and training its security forces. Ethiopia finally withdrew in 2009, frustrated by the Somalia government inability to get its acts together as well as by the international community’s failure to seize the opportunity by sending well-equipped peacekeeping force and assisting institutions of governance.

Ethiopia received no financial assistance for the endeavor, as recently confirmed by the Wikileaks Cables.

It appears Ethiopian taxpayers will have to foot the bill of a military operation on an international significance, again.



Previous posts (in this blog):

Check the Somalia archive OR the Kenya archive OR the Ethiopia’s Somalia intervention 2006 series archive for related posts.

Daniel Berhane

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