The African Union has requested the Security Council for enhanced civilian and maritime support for the A.U. Mission in Somalia (Amisom) and a review of the arms embargo.
According to an A.U. statement, lifting the embargo is necessary to strengthen the Somali security forces in their battle against al-Shabab, an insurgent army linked to al-Qaeda, while maritime support will enable better surveillance of the coastline.
The Amisom peacekeeping force was created in January 2007 with an initial six-month mandate that has been successively renewed. In February, the Security Council passed a resolution expanding Amisom’s role, and increased the size of the force from 12,000 to 17,731 troops. The next review is scheduled for January 2013.
In an interview with The Hindu last month, U.N. Special Representative for Somalia Augustine P. Mahiga praised the formation of the first government since the collapse of the Central government in the 1990s but said it was too early to set a time frame for Amisom’s withdrawal.
“About 85 per cent of Somalia is under the control of the new administration,” he said. “Amisom’s exit would be possible when the Somali police and security forces are adequately trained and capable.”
At present, military operations are conducted by a coalition of Somali forces, Amisom, and allied militias. The government hopes to integrate the autonomous militias into the Somali Army once al-Shabab is defeated.
Dr. Mahiga echoed the A.U. call for greater civilian support following successful military operations in Shabab strongholds like the port city of Kismayo.
“This is a moment of opportunity because of the unusual combination and constellation of forces that can lead to stability,” said Dr. Mahiga, “There is a need for a quick civilian presence in these captured centres to establish local administrations.”
Somalia has been plagued by civil war since the collapse of the dictatorship of Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. In September this year, a U.N. monitored transitional government gave way to a permanent Central government headed by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was elected by a nominated Parliament.