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Africa Union needs help to beat Shabaab, research says

The African Union Mission in Somalia will not achieve its aims until government forces can secure the country against Islamist insurgents, a new study says.

“Amisom alone cannot defeat Al-Shabaab,” says the analysis published on Friday by a Mogadishu-based think-tank.
“And there is little short-term prospect of the national army and police developing into a cohesive, legitimate and inclusive set of security forces,” adds the 44-page assessment, co-authored by Paul Williams, a US professor with expertise on Somalia, and Abdirashid Hashi, director of the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies.

Political in-fighting among various Somali factions is identified as the main factor blocking movement towards providing Amisom with a capable partner.

The stalemate also prevents realisation of the ultimate goal of transitioning security operations from military-led to police-led.

“There is little likelihood of a successful exit strategy for the 22,000-strong AU force as long as the government remains too weak to play a key role in defeating, or at least substantially degrading, Al-Shabaab,” the report adds.

The analysts cite “destructive clan dynamics” as a key cause of elites’ inability to reach a political settlement.


And such, a consensus is seen as a prerequisite to the strengthening the country’s security apparatus, which could, in turn, allow the nearly nine-year long AU mission to gradually let go the primary responsibility for stabilising Somalia.

“Amisom has wounded Al-Shabaab but appears unable to kill it,” the study goes on.

Despite the AU mission’s breakthrough in pushing Al-Shabaab’s main units out of Mogadishu, the militants control much of the countryside in the south and retain the capacity to carry out large-scale and deadly operations.

The report points to the militants’ bloody attacks on three Amisom bases, along with the carnage it has inflicted on civilians in Kenya.

Amisom is severely handicapped by a lack of military resources that would potentially equip it to decimate Al-Shabaab, the study says.

Most crucially, it notes, the African Union has provided Amisom with none of the 12 combat helicopters it was to acquire four years ago.

“It is an international embarrassment that peacekeepers are dying as a result of neglect,” Mr Hashi and Prof Williams write.


Amisom’s effectiveness is also hampered by suspicion with which it is viewed by many Somalis.

Kenyan and Ethiopian contingents are particularly viewed with suspicion because the two governments “have repeatedly pursued counter-productive policies in Somalia that sought to retain their influence over local and national dynamics,” the authors add.

The course taken in Somalia by Kenya and Ethiopia causes Somalis to look at Amisom with scepticism while also fuelling Al-Shabaab propaganda.

Kenyan soldiers are particularly disliked because of a widespread belief that they are involved in illicit charcoal and sugar trade, benefiting Al-Shabaab indirectly, the study says.

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