African Union peacekeeper casualties in Somalia revealed

MOGADISHU, Somalia (Caasimada Online) – For the first time, an African Union (AU) official has publicly disclosed the casualty figures of peacekeepers operating in Somalia.

Thousands have been killed and hundreds more injured since their deployment in 2007 to protect the government from al-Qaida-affiliated al-Shabab militants.

Mohamed El-Amine Souef, the Special Representative of the African Union Commission for Somalia Chairperson, revealed the harrowing figures in an interview with VOA Somali’s “Investigative Dossier.”

Souef confirmed an estimated 3,500 fatalities, with troops from Burundi and Uganda suffering the most casualties.

“The mission has documented around 4,000 casualties. According to the force officers who served in the mission, the casualties, including those disabled, can be as high as over 5,000,” Souef said.

A history of secrecy and struggles

“The troops were not well-prepared, and the administration was not even in Mogadishu. Many cases were not properly documented,” Souef admitted.

Paul D. Williams, a professor of international affairs at George Washington University and an expert on peacekeeping operations, criticized the AU’s lack of transparency.

“The African Union has never been transparent about fatality figures from its missions in Somalia,” he said.

“It has instead deferred to the wishes of the troop-contributing countries, which did not want to announce all their dead peacekeepers publicly.

This policy decision did a severe disservice to the peacekeepers who paid the ultimate sacrifice and their next of kin.”

Initially known as the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the operation’s first deployment in Mogadishu took place in March 2007 with troops from Uganda.

In April 2022, the mission transitioned to the African Union Transition Mission (ATMIS), with plans to withdraw from Somalia by December 2024 after Somali forces assume security responsibilities.

ATMIS currently has approximately 19,000 peacekeepers operating in Somalia.

The sacrifices of AU Peacekeepers

Souef, the former foreign minister of Comoros, said he will prioritize the families of soldiers killed in Somalia for compensation, as some have not yet been recognized “because of a lack of funds.”

The Somali government also paid tribute to the sacrifices of AU peacekeepers.

Hussein Sheikh-Ali, the national security adviser to the president of Somalia, stated, “The Somali people are in their debt,” and expressed gratitude for their assistance in liberating and protecting territories.

Continued efforts to combat Al-Shabab

AU forces, alongside Somali troops, successfully expelled al-Shabab militants from Mogadishu in July 2011 and subsequently from all major towns in the country.

However, the militants have continued their efforts to unseat the internationally supported government of Somalia, launching complex raids on front-line operating bases and killing hundreds of AU forces.

Somali government forces, supported by local fighters, have been conducting military operations since August 2022 and pledged to defeat al-Shabab this year.

ATMIS troops from Burundi and Djibouti provided support for the first phase of these operations.

Souef described the initiative as “good” and reported that ATMIS supported Somali forces with information, casualty and medical evacuations, and air support using helicopters from Uganda.

The second phase of military operations is expected to commence after the holy month of Ramadan, with non-ATMIS troops from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti participating.