AU hands over Afgoye military base to Somali National Army
Over eight years after taking control of Afgoye town from Al-Shabaab, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on Wednesday handed over control of Afgoye military base to the Somali National Army (SNA).
The handover is in line with the Somalia Transition Plan, which is a comprehensive guide developed by the Federal Government of Somalia and its partners to the transfer of security responsibility from AMISOM to Somalia’s national security forces.
Situated some 30 kilometres northwest of Mogadishu, Afgoye was liberated on 26th May 2012, when the Somali National Army (SNA) backed by AMISOM troops defeated Al-Shabaab militants during a joint-offensive operation called “Operation Free Shabelle.”
Thereafter, AMISOM’s Ugandan troops set up a Forward Operating Base (FOB) to coordinate operations and secure Afgoye, which is situated along the main supply route to north, west and south Somalia.
Uganda’s Battle Group 30, commanded by Col. Jimmy Nabiyu Musoke, on Wednesday vacated the FOB in Afgoye during a ceremony presided over by the AMISOM Deputy Force Commander in charge of Operations and Plans, Maj. Gen. William Kitsao Shume. Maj. Gen. Shume officially handed over the FOB to the Governor of the Lower Shabelle region, Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur Siidi.
“This is in line with AMISOM mandate, the Somalia Transition Plan and other strategic documents that envision handing over priority locations as initial stages towards a handing over of security responsibilities to Somali Security Forces,” said Maj. Gen. Shume, who spoke on behalf of the Head of AMISOM, Ambassador Francisco Madeira.
Present at the handover were AMISOM and United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) officials, the SNA Commander of Land Forces, Gen. Mohamed Tahlil Bihi, the SNA Sector 1 commander, Gen. Towane Ahmed Mohamed, and civilian and political leaders of Afgoye.
Maj. Gen. Shume applauded the AMISOM Ugandan troops for the discipline and dedication, which enabled AMISOM to degrade Al-Shabaab and other armed opposition groups in the area.
He urged the Somali Security Forces to zealously defend the FOB, secure the surrounding areas and consult with the outgoing AMISOM commanders if the need arises.
He also noted that as AMISOM implements its reconfiguration plan, it would, in due course, hand over other FOBs located in its other areas of responsibility.
The AMISOM Uganda contingent commander, Brig Gen Don Nabasa, said the handover of Afgoye FOB was a milestone and added to a list of accomplishments under the revised Concept of Operations (CONOPS).
Brig. Gen. Nabasa hailed the cooperation between AMISOM and the community of Afgoye and urged the Somali security forces to maintain cordial relations with the local community.
“I, therefore, would like to implore our brothers and sisters of SNA to maintain the same spirit,” he said.
The Governor of the Lower Shabelle region, Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur Siidi, saluted AMISOM troops for their commitment and sacrifice over the years. He noted that their takeover of the FOB was an opportunity to prepare Somali security forces to handle more significant tasks.
“If we hold our ground and ensure the base is not breached, then we will be able to take over all the other FOBs in the country. We want to stand on our own feet, and to strengthen the capacity of the government,” he said.
The SNA Commander of Land Forces, Gen. Mohamed Tahlil Bihi, described the hand over as a historical event.
He added, “We want to make it clear that we have taken over full responsibility for this FOB, and we hope it will be as safe as it used to be.”
Afgoye FOB becomes the sixth facility to be handed over by AMISOM.
In July 2017, AMISOM handed over Somalia National University, followed by the Mogadishu National Stadium hand over in August 2018. Later, AMISOM handed over Jaalle Siyaad Military Academy in February 2019, Via Afmadow base in Jubaland and Warsheikh Forward Operating Base in September 2019.