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February 21, 2024
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African Union Transition Mission Resumes Handover Of Security Responsibilities To Somali Government Forces
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African Union Transition Mission Resumes Handover of Security Responsibilities to Somali Government Forces

The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) has resumed the process of handing over security responsibilities to Somali government forces after a three-month pause, according to officials. The handover includes control of the State House, also known as Villa Somalia, where Somali President Mohammed Hassan Sheikh Mohamud resides and works, as well as the parliament building.

Since 2007, AU forces have been working alongside Somali forces to secure strategic sites in the capital, Mogadishu, including the presidential palace, parliament building, airport, and seaport. However, Somali forces now assume sole responsibility for these key seats of the executive and legislative branches of government.

In an interview with VOA Somali, Mohamed El-Amine Souef, the AU envoy to Somalia and the head of ATMIS, confirmed the resumption of the drawdown. He expressed that the handover of the State House and the parliament marks a significant achievement and a positive signal to international partners that the Federal Government of Somalia is ready to take on its responsibilities.

As part of the drawdown, the mission plans to withdraw 3,000 soldiers by December 31st, and the responsibility for ten bases will be handed over in this phase. The first phase of the AU drawdown was completed in June when 2,000 troops left Somalia. However, in September, the Somali government requested a 90-day pause due to military setbacks in the fight against al-Shabab militants.

Hussein Sheikh-Ali, the national security adviser to the president of Somalia, confirmed the transfer of the presidential palace to the Somali army and police and expressed gratitude to the Ugandan forces who protected it for the past 16 years.

The recent lifting of an arms embargo has provided a boost to the Somali government’s efforts. Souef stated that the Somali authorities now have the capability to acquire the necessary arms, equipment, and ammunition to effectively combat the enemy.

Looking ahead, plans are in motion for a new mission to support Somalia’s national army beyond the ATMIS handover. Souef explained that the African Union is required to establish a new mission with a new mandate by January 1, 2025. This mission, which will have a combination of troops and civilians, will focus on capacity building, protection of populated areas and strategic infrastructure in Mogadishu and other capitals of federal member states.

While the specifics of the new mission are still being negotiated, Hussein Sheikh-Ali revealed that the Somali government is discussing the establishment of a multilateral protection force that will work closely with the Somali Security Forces to safeguard critical infrastructures in major cities where international agencies and embassies operate. The possibility of the new mission falling under the AU umbrella has not been ruled out.

As the ATMIS drawdown continues and plans for the future mission progress, the African Union’s commitment to supporting Somalia remains steadfast. The transition may mark a new chapter in Somalia’s security landscape, but it does not signify the end of AU engagement in the country.

 

Source: VOA

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