My view on AMISOM is changing
By Hassan Isilow
I had never been a fan of the African Union Peace keeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM), not until recently when they over powered Al-Shabbab and took full control of Mogadishu. When Uganda first contributed her troops to the peace keeping mission in Somalia in 2007, I was among those who complained over the country’s involvement in a risky endeavour.
I remember writing a number of commentaries in different news publications, questioning Uganda’s intentions in Somalia. I was also invited to contribute my thoughts on a number of radio and television discussions regarding the Somali crisis. The most recent discussion was in November on Afro Beat radio in New York, where I stated that recent history had shown that military interventions in Somalia had not had much success.
Off course this is true, the United States mission failed in Mogadishu, while Ethiopian troops met great resistance from Somali militia when they invaded the country in 2006. At the same time, AMISOM was only controlling just a few blocks in the capital Mogadishu, despite being there since 2007. So I expected AMISOM to also fail, but I was surprised when they recently took full control of Mogadishu.
This victory has since changed my perception of AMISOM. Ever since AMISOM and the TFG forces pushed out ruminants of Al-Shabbab from the capital, residents are starting to enjoy some peace. This is the first time AMISOM has been able to secure an area outside the parameters of the city, which will allow them to defend greater Mogadishu from the exterior.
However, while it may be too early to celebrate, this is still good news to residents of Mogadishu who have been living in fear. It is also good news to both Uganda and Burundi, the two countries that contributed troops to the mission. The rating of their armies will be high in the continent. If Mogadishu remains peaceful then Somalis in the Diaspora could also start returning to contribute to development.
Having said all the above, I am certain critics of AMISOM are already asking how long the peacekeepers will manage to retain control of Mogadishu before Al-Shabbab takes it over again. I think AMISOM should observe the following so as to preserve their recently achieved victory. Firstly, they should use their command to order Ethiopian troops currently operating inside Somali territory to withdraw. The presence of Ethiopian forces inside Somalia brings bad memories and this could make Somali youth start up another resistance movement like they did previously.
In 2006, Ethiopia invaded Somalia with the aim of toppling the Islamic courts union. In the course of their invasion they committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Ethiopian invasion and mayhem in Somalia gave birth to Al-Shabaab, a youth resistance movement which was primarily formed to fight the invading Ethiopian troops.
Secondly, AMISOM troops should try their best not to hit civilian targets, like they were previously accused of bombing Bakara market and surrounding residential areas. Indiscriminate shelling of civilian targets will only radicalise Somalis into joining the extremist Al-Shabbab movement which might destabilise the gains made by AMISOM in Mogadishu