Somali national army to take over fight against Al Shabaab

Friday January 1 2016

Somali government soldiers view remains of a suicide bomber who killed four of their colleagues and wounded 12 others after blowing himself up at the Somali army headquarters in Mogadishu. PHOTO | FAISAL ISSE | XINHUA

Somali government soldiers view remains of a suicide bomber who killed four of their colleagues and wounded 12 others after blowing himself up at the Somali army headquarters in Mogadishu. PHOTO | FAISAL ISSE | XINHUA  

By JOHN NJAGI
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The international community has put together a 20,000-strong Somali national army, which is expected to take over the fight against Al Shabaab when the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) leave.

Outgoing special representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Somalia Nicholas Kay, said the force, which includes a police wing, will take over from Amison, and not only help fight the Al Shabaab militants but also ensure they do not recover territory they had lost at the KDF under Amison.

“Amison is not going to be in Somalia forever, so this army and police force to maintain general order is expected to take over once the troops leave Somalia,” he said.

Mr Kay however, did not give an indication when the KDF, which operates together with troops from other Africa nations, under the multi-national force would leave the country. He said the UN Security Council, would have to determine that.

The envoy was speaking as the wound up his two and a half -year tenure overseeing an international efforts led by the United Nations, to stabilise Somalia, with the US and the United Kingdom, among the lead contributors to the security and political efforts to ensure the war torn country regains stability.

He however, expressed optimism and hope that Somalia was on the path towards stability, saying next year will be particularly momentous in ensuring that ground covered in building institutions, in the security and political arena, are not lost and that such gains are consolidated to give the fragile state a more firm standing.

The British diplomat said however, economic recovery remained the most wanting, saying 70 per cent of the Somalis under the age of 35 years are out of employment.

“On the economic recovery side there has been less progress and as we go into 2016, the focus should be jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said.

He said for there to be economic growth, there was need to ensure peace was sustained, saying the security situation remained vulnerable, as a few regions were still under the control of terrorist group Al Shabaab, even as efforts by Amison to take back the regions from the terror group were scaled up.

ECONOMIC ACTIVITY
Much of the economic activity, according to the outgoing envoy, were private sector based, responsible for growth in the livestock export sector, which contributed export of about 5 million livestock last year, but lack of roads, electricity connection, among other infrastructure and lack of value addition, meant that a lot more was yet to be done to improve the economic fortunes of the locals.

The high number of the unemployed youth, he said, were a ticking bomb, as they provided a fertile ground for recruitment by the Al Shabaab, hence the urgency to build infrastructure and create jobs.

For this to be achieved, Mr Kay said development efforts by international partners including the US, UK, the European Union and the African Union (AU) required to be strengthened in 2016, saying all parties could not afford to relent when the progress made so far required to be consolidated.

TOUR OF DUTY

“Somalia has moved from a failed state to fragile one, and I am happy to note during the end of my tour of duty, that most of the rebuilding is being done by the Somalis themselves,” he said.

On the political front, five federal governments, with their national assemblies but reporting to the central government of Somalia were in place, with further progress expected with the regional elections expected in 2016.

Mr Kay was speaking during an interview with the Nation, in Nairobi, as he prepared to return to the UN headquarters for further deployment, even as the Somalia government early awaits his successor to help steer the ship of stability and lift the fragile Somalia out of the doldrums.