An African Union delegation asked the United Nations Security Council Wednesday to approve the expansion of its mission in Somalia and provide it with logistical and other support it needs to crush Islamist insurgents who have challenged the transitional government and threatened peace and security in the Horn of Africa and beyond.
The African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ramtane Lamamra, asked the 15-member Security Council to approve increasing the African Union mission strength from the authorized 12,000 troops to a little more than 17,000.
He also asked the council, which provides funding for much of the mission known as AMISOM, to provide needed force enablers and multipliers, such as tactical and transport helicopters, as well as logistical support.
Lamamra noted that gains made on the ground by AMISOM and forces of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) must be protected and built upon. “For the first time in 20 years, almost the whole of Mogadishu is now under the control of the TFG. In addition, military operations in other parts of the country by the TFG forces, with the support of Kenya and Ethiopia, have further weakened Al Shabaab extremists and other anti-peace elements,” Lamamra said.
AMISOM is made up of troops from Uganda and Burundi. Djibouti recently joined the mission, sending 850 troops to AMISOM. The Kenyan and Ethiopian forces Lamamra referred to are assisting in the south and east of Somalia, respectively, but are not currently part of the AU mission. The AU plan would have the Kenyan troops “re-hatted” as part of the AMISOM mission, accounting for most of the 5,700 additional troops they are asking for.
But the Security Council will have several questions to consider before deciding whether to grant the AU’s request, including what are known as “command and control” issues. Specifically, who would the Kenyan troops report to? There have been tensions, diplomats say, between Kenya and Uganda over whether the Kenyan troops would report to a Ugandan commander.
Paying the re-hatted Kenyan soldiers would also be a consideration. Currently, the European Union pays the salaries of the nearly 10,000 AMISOM soldiers. It is not clear whether in its current economic circumstances the EU would be ready to foot the bill for 6,000 more.
Diplomats say it will likely take a few weeks to work out the details of an expanded mission, which would have to be approved through a Security Council resolution. Some diplomats say they would like the matter resolved before the British host a conference on Somalia in late February.