Regional leaders have endorsed plans to reduce the number of troops deployed in Somalia and allow Mogadishu to take full charge of the stabilisation of the war-torn country.
This was during the Extraordinary Summit of the troop-contributing countries held at State House Entebbe on Thursday.
According to a statement from State House, the leaders welcomed the initiative by the Federal Government of Somalia to “take full ownership and leadership of Somalia’s Stabilization Strategy, which marks a renewed momentum by the Government to restore state authority and provide basic public goods and services in liberated areas.”
The meeting also “agreed on the procedures for the drawdown of 2,000 ATMIS troops in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2670 (2022) and underlined the need for the joint assessment of the drawdown of 3,000 ATMIS troops.”
Under Resolution 2670 (2022), the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed the African Union commitment to adopt a strategic, gradual, sector-by-sector approach to the troop drawdown and maintain the ATMIS exit date of 31 December 2024.
The first phase of the drawdown, involves the withdrawal of 2,000 troops from Somalia, scheduled for the end of June 2023 under revised timelines.
The summit was attended by presidents from the troop-contributing countries and their delegates.
These are: Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia; Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti; Evariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi; Dr. William Ruto of Kenya; and the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, Mr. Demeke Mekonnen.
The regional leaders’ Summit was preceded by a meeting of security experts and defence officials in Kampala to assess the preparedness of the Somali Security Forces to take over security responsibilities from the African Union troops, with consideration of key aspects including force generation and logistical support.
Regional leaders had expressed concern that a rapid drawdown of regional forces in Somalia without due consideration of security challenges on the ground could pose new threats for the country.
However, with the support of regional forces, Somalia continues to hold an operational and strategic advantage over Al-Shabaab, with the Somali armed forces recovering around 75 locations from the terrorist group since last August.
Somalia has also increased the pace of its force generation, with newly arrived troops now active on the frontlines against Al-Shabaab.
Somalia’s forces-led and owned offensive against Al-Shabaab has resulted in security gains across Al-Shabaab strongholds, notably in HirShabelle, Galmudug, and parts of Jubaland.
However, leaders called for increased logistical support for the Somali Security Forces.
President Museveni, who is the current Chairperson of the Heads of States from Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) to the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), assured the people of Somalia and the region of their commitment to stabilise the Horn of Africa.
He told delegates that some of the problems have been solved before in Africa, including those created by deceased Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin.
“Africa can solve these problems once you agree on the concept. So, this problem (of Somalia), the one we’ve discussed today, I’m sure we can solve,” said Museveni.
The summit commended the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia for successful implementation of its mandate, including supporting smooth political transitions, saving lives, and supporting stabilization efforts in Somalia.
It further underscored the importance of respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence, and unity of Somalia and “reaffirmed its commitment to continue to assist, in the spirit of Pan Africanism, the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) in its stabilization efforts, and the region shall not abandon Somalia and will explore alternative means to guarantee Somalia’s security.”
Presidents Guelleh and Ruto were mandated to engage the development partners on behalf of the troop-contributing countries in the stabilization of Somalia.
Leaders also mandated Museveni and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission to communicate to the United Nations Security Council the decisions and recommendations of this summit.
The President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, said his country will remain grateful for the contribution and sacrifice made by the troop-contributing countries and the African Union to stabilize Somalia for the last 16 years.
“The Somali people will remain grateful to the troop-contributing countries and the African Union as well. We will continue with the commitment you have shown us today in the remaining period of the mission. I’m more hopeful than I was when I came here,” Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said.
The major objective of the Summit was to evaluate the achievements made in the implementation of the ATMIS mandate and to review the ATMIS drawdown plan in compliance with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) 26/70 (2022) and 26/28.
Some of the Ugandan delegates who attended the summit included, among others; Hon. Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja (Minister of Defense and Veteran Affairs), Gen. Jeje Odong and Okello Oryem (Ministers of Foreign Affairs), the Chief of Defense Forces, Gen. Wilson Mbasu Mbadi, the Commander Land Forces, Lieutenant General Kayanja Muhanga, and Brig. Peter Gaetano Omola, the Contingent Commander Sector 1 in Somalia.