The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on Thursday 31 March to create a new African Union-led peacekeeping force in Somalia. The vision of this mission will be to stabilise the country in the face of the Shebab Islamist insurgency, an objective that has remained unfulfilled for 15 years.
It has been named the African Transitional Mission in Somalia (Atmis). This peacekeeping force will replace Amisom (African Union Mission in Somalia) and will see its strength of nearly 20,000 military, police and civilian personnel scheduled to be gradually reduced to zero by 31 December 2024. As a result, nearly 2,000 military personnel are expected to leave the force by the end of 2022, with others to follow in four phases.
Why Atmis to replace Amisom?
Amisom was created by the AU in 2007 with the sole aim of supporting the Somali government against the insurgency of the Shebab, radical Islamists linked to Al-Qaeda. Indeed, it succeeded in driving these rebels out of the main cities, including the capital Mogadishu in 2011, allowing the installation of a government and federal institutions and the holding of two rounds of elections (2012, 2017). According to Samira Gaid, executive director of the Somali security institute Hiraal, “Amisom has helped to secure and create an enabling environment for political life and economic activity.
In 2014, she continued, “we saw it mostly on the defensive, holding its positions… There was an opportunity in 2014-2015 to continue the offensive and take over from the Shebab (…) This opportunity was not taken”. The reason was that Amisom felt it lacked the support of the poorly functioning Somali forces. This state of affairs has left vast rural areas in the hands of the Shebab, who continue to carry out attacks there. On the other hand, the government feels that sometimes some neighbours use it to interfere in its affairs. Mogadishu has never hidden its desire to regain security prerogatives on its soil as soon as possible. But Amisom remains indispensable for securing the country’s strategic sites and axes. Nevertheless, the objective of launching this mission 15 years ago has not yet been achieved.
Atmis to permanently free Somalia from the hands of the Shebab?
Atmis is called upon to fight the Shebab jihadists, who are active in this country in the Horn of Africa until 31 December 2024. Somalia has been the scene of multiple attacks in recent weeks, including two very recently in central Somalia, claimed by the Shebab Islamists, which left at least 48 people dead. Similarly, the country is very weakened by a political crisis and is even struggling to organise its presidential election, which has been expected for over a year. Indeed, for this mission, the Atmis mandate displays a more offensive doctrine and sets a deadline; this is to hand over responsibility for the security of the country to the Somali army and police after the mandate.
According to US diplomat Richard Mills, the Chebab jihadists ” represent a considerable threat to Somalia and more widely to East Africa, capable of adapting “. And that a force was therefore needed “Africa-led international”, such as Atmis, to counteract the “the largest and best-funded al-Qaeda affiliate”.