SOMALIA: What use is AMISOM? [Opinion]

BY : Adan Diini

“What use is AMISOM” is what is often heard not by Somalis that have been allegedly shelled by its peacekeepers but by UN diplomats at OCHA, UNSOA, UNPOS and Arab embassies here in Nairobi. The 7000 plus peacekeeping force with its civilian staff have been in Somalia for almost four year now and have hardly achieved anything real results. While not achieving results in Somalia is nothing new when one looks at the history of UNDP and UNPOS, AMISOM’s failure to date has been due its leadership and its inability to strengthen talent and recruit qualified staff. This is a typical African failure. Given that AMISOM is Africa’s first peacekeeping mission one would expect the AU to take the issue of Somalia with sincerity and seriousness rather than send second class diplomats to work on an issue that seen thousands of innocent Somalis die at the hands of warlords, terrorists and peacekeepers.

The African Union’s first mistake was to appoint the current Somali Envoy, Ambassador Boubacar Diarra to such a demanding critical task. Ambassador Diarra is no doubt a good man and Muslim but he lack the intellectual rigour and vision to resolve the current Somali crisis. According to diplomats in Nairobi, Ambassador Diarra is unable to perform diplomatically and has become an embarrassment to AMISOM. An example was Ambassador Diarra’s first visit to Mogadishu. It took the former Ambassador Ould Abdallah and the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security to force him to visit Mogadishu. Such an act of cowardice has not only made Ambassador Diarra a target for ridicule within AMISOM security circles but made his relationship with the TFG extremely difficult. Unlike the TFG relationship between Nicolas Bwakira the former Somali Envoy who developed good relations within the TFG and its presidency Ambassador Diarra has not relations with TFG. In fact, when Ambassador Diarra wants to speak to TFG members or the president he has to go via his US-Burundi intelligence officer who Somalis from the Jubaland have issued a fatwa on.

Recently, the AU has decided to sack AMISOM’s Police Unit for poor performance and gross infighting here in Nairobi. This means that AMISOM has no Police Unit to work with UNDP and the Somali Police Force. By December, training of Somali police with end, which means al Shabaab and corrupt TFG police, can continue extorting money from innocent Somalis.

Politically, AMISOM under the leadership of Ambassador Diarra has failed to take the initiative to promote reconciliation among the warring Somalis. According to one source, Ambassador Diarra believes Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys is untrustworthy and refused to negotiate with him. AMISOM’s failure to think big has meant that UNPOS under the direction of Bruno Mpondo has taken the lead to begin talks with Hizbul Islam that start in Finland this year. Whether UNPOS will bring to the negotiation table Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys is not the real issue but that UNPOS are still trying to carry out their political mandate.

Militarily, AMISOM has meant the difference between the corrupt TFG and the terrorists of al Shabaab but here again AMISOM under Ambassador Diarra has failed to show vision. The victories of AMISOM in Mogadishu have been down to the skill of General Nathan Mugisha and his brave soldiers who have kept Mogadishu and Villa Somalia from being a base for Al Qaeda and al Shabaab. The question here is why has AMISOM not taken advantage of this politically? Why has AMISOM (Ambassador Diarra) refused to authorise AMISOM civilian staff deployment to Mogadishu to assist General Mugisha and his men? Without an AMISOM civilian presence in Mogadishu AMISOM’s military victories will mean nothing and the Somalis will continue to be the victims.

In conclusion, as the end of TFG’s mandate nears in August 2011 the AU and AMISOM need to think seriously whether Ambassador Diarra is the right diplomat to deal with the many more and serious crisis that we are due to witness next year in TFG. Should TFG collapse before its time it will be due to the weak role of AMISOM leadership and not only the weakness of TFG. The UN was wise to sack Ambassador Ould Abdallah (and keep Bruno Mpondo). The AU should now think big.

BY : Adan Diini

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