African Union officials from several troop-contributing countries gathered in Kampala, Uganda, this week to evaluate the performance of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) amid reports that the Somali government may require an extension of the mission.
The four-day meeting, which commenced on April 24th, 2023, brought together officials from the African Union Commission, ATMIS Mission Headquarters, and Troop Contributing Countries such as Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, Somalia, and representatives of international partners.
The objective of the meeting was to review a seamless implementation of the ATMIS troop drawdown plan.
The first phase involves the withdrawal of 2,000 troops from Somalia, scheduled for the end of June 2023, under revised timelines.
The United Nations Security Council unanimously endorsed the African Union’s commitment to adopting a strategic, gradual, sector-by-sector approach to the withdrawal until the end of 2024.
However, reports suggested Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud intended to seek an extension of ATMIS’s mission beyond the December 31, 2024 exit date, citing the challenges of dealing with the Al-Shabaab insurgency.
However, President Mohamud’s National Security Adviser, Hussein Sheikh-Ali, denied these claims, which underpins the complexities surrounding the ATMIS mission.
The meeting in Kampala evaluated the readiness of the Somali Security Forces to assume security responsibilities from the African Union troops, including force generation and logistical support. Somalia has been training and recruiting 24,000 soldiers to take over from ATMIS by December 2024.
During the opening of the meeting, the Head of the Ugandan Delegation and Head of the Regional Peace and Security Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Julius Joshua Kivuna, noted that the meeting had been convened at the request of the Federal Government of Somalia.
He also highlighted the significance of the meeting in assessing ATMIS’s performance and facilitating preparations for the phased handover of security responsibilities to the Somali Security Forces.
The recommendations resulting from the meeting will contribute to the ATMIS Head of State Summit scheduled for Thursday later in that week. Besides, the Permanent Secretaries, Chiefs of Defence Forces, and Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence for ATMIS Troop Contributing Countries will have further meetings.