The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) are scheduled to withdraw from Somalia in two years according to timelines drawn by the United Nations Security Council.
The planned withdrawal comes seven years after KDF troops entered Somalia under the aegis of “Operation Linda Nchi” on October 14, 2011 in pursuit of Al Shabaab terrorists who had been entering Kenya at will to abduct and kill aid workers and tourists in North Eastern and Coast.
According to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2372 (2017), Kenyan troops will leave Somalia in December 2020 after mentoring Somali security forces to take over control from Amisom.
If the schedule works as planned, all sixteen Forward Operating Base (FOB) occupied by KDF troops working under Amisom will be taken over by Somalia National Army (SNA) and Jubaland Security Force who are currently being mentored to take over security responsibility of their country.
The FOBs include Amisom Sector II headquarters Dhobley, Afmadhow, Tabda, Fafadun, Hoosingow, Kismayo New Airport, Kismayo Old Airport, Kolbio, Buale, Badhaadhe, Beles Qoqaani and Burgavo among others.
Last year, Kenya withdrew 200 troops from Amisom as part of its share in the 1,000-man strong force in the drawdown authorised by the UN Security Council.
Another 200 KDF troops are scheduled to withdrawn from Somalia by December.
It is expected that the drawdown will be escalated ahead of the 2020 deadline leaving all security responsibilities to Somalia security agencies.
The five Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) namely Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia are bound by the UN Security Council drawdown resolution.
Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Zambia are contributing police officers to Amisom. However, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission ambassador Francisco Caetano says the number will be compensated by 500 Amisom police who are coming in to assist in training of Somali police officers.
According to the UN Security Council Resolution 2372 (2017) which extended Amisom’s mandate until May 31, there is an expected reduction of the troops to 20,626 from 21,626 by October 30.
The Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2372 (2017) under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter in which there would be a reduction of uniformed personnel but an increase of police in Somalia.
But as the drawdown of Amisom troops approaches, locals and TCC are apprehensive of the ability of SNA to hold on to territory liberated by African Union troops when they withdraw in 2020.
Lack of a unified command structure for the SNA and other security forces operating in Somalia is the greatest challenge to achieving a realistic transition to and handing over of security responsibility.
Loss of gains
During a meeting of Heads of State and ministers of the main TCC including Kenya, Ethiopia, Burundi and Uganda held in March in Uganda, the countries warned that the time frame for the drawdown was unrealistic and would likely lead to the loss of gains already achieved by Amisom.
Amisom recently received an extension of its mandate in Somalia from the UN Security Council. UN funds African Union’s operations in the war-ravaged country. KDF/Amisom troops have over the last one year been training and preparing Somalia security agents to take over the responsibility.
All security operations are led by SNA with support from Amisom troops.
As part of the condition-based withdrawal, Amisom will soon handover the Mogadishu stadium to SNA troops as well as the Military Academy.
Amisom will then establish a FOB for SNA in Leego to secure the main supply route between Mogadishu and Baidoa.
The Mayor of Mogadishu and Governor of Benadir region Abdirahman Omar Osman is concerned that if Amisom troops leave before degrading Al Shabaab, the insurgents might return.
“Our worry is that the UN and other donors are talking about reducing troops. What we want is for our country to be secure and if the Amisom troops leave, the situation might be overturned,” the mayor says.
Acting Amisom Force Commander Major General Tai Gituai says the transition period is being purely driven by the Somalia government.
“We want to let them have security responsibility with the support of AU. We are working out the modalities. Next week, we are having discussions on the condition-based transition plan. The transition will be applied based on a comprehensive approach that will drive the transition. We expect the forces to be well developed and ready to take over,” Maj Gen Gituai says.
The officers’ cadre is being trained by the British security officials. Somalia’s security agents are being trained by Turkey, Kenya, Uganda, Britain, EU and United Arab Emirates.