I write today from Somalia, a nation walking on a crucial path, and now abounding in realities that seemed impossible 15 years ago.
I seek to honour the spirit of African brotherhood that stood and prevailed when all seemed lost and irretrievable to the global community. I applaud African nations that opted to pay the ultimate price in the quest for peace, security and stabilisation of Somalia.
From the capital, Mogadishu, I reflect on a journey that began in March 2007, when the first contingent of African Union (AU) troops from Uganda arrived in Somalia, in what many believed to be a hopeless and suicidal mission. At the time, Somalia was not only battling insecurity but also hunger and malnutrition as a result of a protracted civil war.
Uganda was joined by Burundi in December 2007. These two countries held fort, in the most precarious circumstances before being joined by Djibouti in December 2011. Kenyan and Ethiopian troops, who had separately been holding fort along their common borders with Somalia, later integrated into AMISOM in February 2012 and January 2014, respectively.
The African Union troops had an initial mandate to support the Transitional Federal Government structures, implement a National Security Plan, train Somali security forces and create a conducive environment for the delivery of humanitarian aid. This soon evolved to include all-out offensive operations against Al Shabaab terrorists, who were dislodged from territories they had held for years and used as recruitment and training grounds and trade zones to facilitate their activities as well as launch attacks on their own kinsmen and women.
Today, we take particular pride in seeing the people of Somalia thrive especially in areas that specifically signified their oppression. Consider the transformation of Mogadishu stadium for instance, previously the headquarters of the Al Shabaab, a training and recruitment ground for the terrorists, used for executions as well as assembling of bombs and improvised explosive devices that have claimed the lives of many over the years.
We take pride in seeing schools and hospitals that hitherto lay desolate for many years, now bustling with activity. We delight in drives to Mogadishu, once a symbol of war and pain, but now an economic hub, with booming business activity. We speak about a country where local and international trade flourishes, seaports, and airports abuzz with activity.
We speak of the many Somali people, previously displaced internally and internationally, but now back to rebuild their homeland. Today, the government that then operated from Kenya, has spread its authority across the country and is able to hold elections in all six regions.
Somalia now boasts of national security institutions that have been gradually taking over responsibility for the country’s safety and security, ahead of the withdrawal of the AU peacekeeping forces. Somalia has seen its sons and daughters rise to defy the odds, and now lead military operations in pursuit of the enemy of their motherland.
I pay tribute to the brave men and women of Africa that gave new meaning to bravery. The troops deployed amidst heavy fire, mortar explosions and abductions. These men and women had basic weapons, no force enablers or multipliers and moved in vehicles that could be penetrated by ammunition. They witnessed their comrades pay the ultimate price; many were maimed for life, but they held on.
I celebrate African leaders whose vision makes it possible for us to speak of a Somalia rising, playing its role on the regional and global arenas. The leaders that stood the heat, made the difficult decisions and stood by them. This motivated their troops and dug deep in their own countries’ budgets to support the Somalia peace process.
I rally our African brothers and sisters to continue standing with Somalia, and with each other. An Africa that stands for Africa in the true spirit of brotherhood.
-Ambassador Mohamed is Special Representative of the African Union Commission Chairperson for Somalia and Head of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia
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