- East Africa
- Conflicts - Governance
Somalia: A strategic move by AMISOM and Somali forces against Islamist insurgents?
AMISOM denies backing Somali government troops
The mischievous Islamist al-Shabab rebels tried to regain power in Mogadishu last weekend, but they were contained by Somali government forces, allegedly supported by the African Union peacekeeping forces. Early this week, Monday morning to be precise, Mogadishu city was eerily silent. But the AU peacekeeping forces were busily proving their non-involvement in the weekend combat operations that left several people dead.
Sporadic shooting could still be heard, but calm had finally made a gradual comeback to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, Monday, after violent clashes between Islamist militia, Al Shabab and government forces this weekend. Fighting between rebels and loyalist forces broke out Saturday killing at least 21 people, including 18 civilians.
The fight continued until Sunday increasing the the number of casualties.
"We killed 40 fighters belonging to Al Chabaab and we continue to beat them into retreat. We’ve now driven them out of three northern Mogadishu districts. AU peacekeepers helped us," said Salad Ali Jelle, a Somali parliamentarian who spoke to Reuters on Sunday. According to the deputy mayor of Mogadishu, Adbifitah Shawey, three soldiers from the Somali government troops were killed.
AMISOM breaks out of its shell
A strategic support from the 4 300 men strong AMISOM African Union peacekeeping unit in Somalia (AMISOM) may have helped to contain the rebels who had, until now, been closing in on the presidential palace, Villa Somalia. According to a spokesman for AMISOM, the intervention was necessary "because the rebels had crossed the red line”, one that they should not have crossed if they wanted to “avoid military action," reports Reuters. Among AMISOM’s missions is the protection of sensitive points in the Somali capital including, the presidential palace, airport and habour.
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, UN Special Representative for Somalia, said Monday that he hoped that the response of the Somali forces would bring stability to Mogadishu.
Despite the much appreciated results of the intervention, AMISOM has strongly denied joining the Somali government forces to fight the Islamist rebels. Major Barigye Ba-Huko, spokesman for AMISOM, in an interview with Voice Of America, said news of an AMISOM troop movement had been distorted. AMISOM’s action, according to him, was linked to the protection of their troops’ and supply routes.
AMISOM, according to regulations, is not supposed to engage in active combat. The peacekeeping body would have, therefore, flouted its mandate should there be evidence to prove their involvement in active combat on Somali soil.
"Those are reports that have been created by opposition forces to attack our positions. What has happened is that AMISOM pre-empted and tried to do what it should to ensure that the safety of troops and the safety of supply routes are guaranteed," said Major Barigye Ba-Huko. According to the Major, the red line referred to by the force commander was related to the troops and supply route.
We did a show of force
According to the Major, distorted information have been promulgated by external sources who claim that the AU peacekeeping force may have violated its mandate: "We did a show of force, one to guarantee that the routes are open and two to ensure that the safety of our soldiers is in place. That is what people have misconstrued to mean that we are engaged in active combat".
Major Ba-Huko believes that what makes people think AMISOM is involved in combat is possibly due to the fact that it is "the first time our troops have moved to certain areas where maybe we have never been seen before…that is what people say that we are getting actively involved in the battle".
A strategic and simultaneous move
Experts have argued that the Islamist insurgents may have been surprised and beaten back by a strategic and simultaneous move taken by both the AU peacekeepers, who moved in to protect their routes, and Somali government forces, involved in active combat against the advancing insurgents.
Two and half years ago, the Islamists tried to take over power, however, Somali government forces in alliance with the Ethiopian army managed to dislodge them. Fighting between the Islamists and the Somali government have killed more than 18 000 people and displaced thousands since 2006.
Somalia has been politically unstable since 1991. In addition to a civil war, the situation has contributed to the rise of piracy.