AU mission says troop drawdown will not leave “security vacuum” in Somalia

An AMISOM field commander in front of an armored personnel carrier. [File Photo]

The African Union’s (AU) senior envoy to Somalia has reassured Somalis that the withdrawal of troops from the country will not lead to a “security vacuum.”

AU Special Representative for Somalia Mohamed El-Amine Souef said the pan-African body will not abandon Somalia even as the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) prepares to withdraw an additional 4,000 troops by the end of June.

“Even as ATMIS troops drawdown, we will ensure there is no security vacuum,” Souef said after a two-day visit to Jowhar, south-central Somalia, according to a statement issued in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Saturday night.

He said the transition will be well coordinated between the federal member states (FMS), the Somali government, and international partners.

During the visit, Souef lauded the Burundian troops for their efforts in countering and degrading al-Shabab, urging them to remain vigilant and work closely with the Somali security forces and the local community.

The visit is part of the AU envoy’s tour of the FMS to assess the operational preparedness, welfare, and morale of troops as the African body prepares a follow-up mission after the exit of ATMIS.

“We came to assess the work of our contingent, and everybody we met spoke highly of our contingent, including the president, the civil society representatives, the elders, and the local authority officials. They mentioned our contingent’s commitment, experience, and willingness to support and assist in terms of civil-military cooperation and security,” Souef said.

According to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2710 (2023), ATMIS is mandated to withdraw 4,000 troops in the third phase of troop withdrawal and be replaced by Somali security forces.

Souef praised the UN and ATMIS personnel stationed in Jowhar for their commitment and sacrifice to the peacebuilding process in Somalia.

He expressed confidence in Somalia’s recent election to the UN Security Council, its admission to the East African Community, and the lifting of the arms embargo as positive signs for the country’s future and the entire continent.

ATMIS withdrew 5,000 troops from Somalia and handed over 17 military bases to the Somali security forces during the first and second phases of the drawdown concluded in 2023.

Marius Ngendabanka, ATMIS deputy force Commander in charge of operations and plans, reiterated the AU mission’s commitment to strengthening peacebuilding efforts in the region and working with the Somali National Army to secure Hirshabelle State.

“We are here to help Somalia restore peace and stability, and we will continue working toward achieving this noble goal,” Ngendabanka said.

Source: Xinhua

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