The AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) : Success or a Failure?

The African Union (AU) is an organization embracing the idea of Pan-Africanism in its attempt to unite and integrate the African Continent. Pan-Africanism has been perceived to be the need to mobilize the people of Africa to unite in action against colonialism and racism achieving political unity in the continent (Okhonmina, 2009). The AU’s aspirations do not stop there, as eventually it aspires to turn into an international organisation with similar characteristics as western institutions or organizations.

Before true political and economic integration can be achieved, the AU needs to create a climate of security and peace in the continent. The African Union Mission in Somalia(AMISOM) is argued to be an example of a mission that embraces the idea of Pan-Africanism. The mission in Somalia has a clear mandate to reduce the threat posed by Al-Shabaab, whilst also providing ‘’security to enable the political process at all levels as well as stabilisation efforts, reconciliation and peacebuilding’’ (AMISOM Mandate, 2013). Many African states have contributed large numbers of troops to the AMISOM cause in the fight against Al-Shabaab. Since 2007 AMISOM forces have grown to 22,126 (United Nations Security Council, 2016); Uganda, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya have provided a considerable number of troops (AMISOM, 2016). Such action shows necessary unity between African states to solve the ongoing crisis in Somalia.

Although a controversial area of discussion, AMISOM’s “success’’ story can be seen through the collaborative military action against Al-Shabaab. The military effectiveness and conduct of the success can be credited to three key factors. Firstly, all actors that are part of the mission share the same commitment to the cause under the idea of Pan-Africanism. Secondly, efficacious strategic organisation of the peacekeeping troops and military resources. This refers to the separation of Somalia into sectors, where each sectors becomes the responsibility of each peacekeeping force (AMISOM, 2016). For example, Ugandan troops had the responsibility of Sector 1 (Banadir, and Lower Shabelle), whilst Kenyan troops oversaw Sector 2 (Bay and Bakool). Such strategic organisation led to the liberation of 6 major towns that carry geopolitical significance in determining the military outcome in Somalia. Perhaps the most important victory of AMISOM and the Somalian National Army (SNA) was the liberation of Buule Burde. Buule Burde, was the most significant victory over Al-Shabaab, as it served as the main supply centre for the jihadi movement (AMISOM, 2016). Thirdly, the role that the United Nation Support Office for Somalia (UNSOA) has played in determining the outcome of the conflict.  UNSOA has fundamentally helped in prioritising routes of supply to AMISOM, in relation to military, medical and sustenance resources to the peacekeepers. Moreover, it has significantly contributed by providing intelligence information to AMISOM through Security Council Resolution 2182, providing for upgraded marine surveillance (United Nations Security Council, 2015).  

The military dimension can only be deemed successful if one only views the situation from a relatively realist perspective, which assumes that success is derived from relative power gains of one actor over the other. For example, it will be deemed a success that AMISOM managed to gain a stronger foothold in the region, sufficiently decreasing the relative power of the enemy. However, it is required to examine AMISOM as a humanitarian intervention, an idea which is embodied in liberal institutionalism. In the humanitarian aspect, AMISOM managed to create a relatively secure environment that has allowed for a certain extent of peace and regional governance. Although a positive outcome, the problem of conflict and social devastation persists. It is estimated that around 1.1 million people have been displaced, of which 60% are children  (Al Jazeera, 2016). Furthermore, 40% of the Somali population needs some sort of humanitarian assistance including significant medical help. Consequently, it can be argued that in the humanitarian aspect AMISOM has not enjoyed the same success. To a further extent, it raises the question of what foreign interests may be behind AMISOM and if Somalia represents a new front for the controversial ‘war on terror’.  To avoid such parallels being made, AMISOM needs to display a greater coherence and willingness in solving the humanitarian crisis in the region. As such, AMISOM’s rhetoric on humanitarian assistance needs to match its actions. Even though AMISOM has taken steps to improve the situation, a stronger action to combat the problems of famine, poverty and medical inadequacies is necessary.

Featured image | Newly trained Somali police officers march during a passing out parade in Kismaayo in April 2017 | AMISOM

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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