EDITORIAL: AMISOM’s Role in Civilian Killings and COVER-UP

By Idil Muxumad Cabdi

On August 10 at the Beldamin-Golweyn Forward Operating Base in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) engaged in a fierce firefight between the mission’s troops and the al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab fighters.  In that battle, according to multiple reports, at least seven civilians were killed near the village of Golweyn, approximately 100 kilometers south of Mogadishu.  These are facts, and these are largely undisputed.

What is also know is this.  In a tweet on the day of the attack (a tweet later deleted), AMISOM indicated that troops on routine patrol “engaged and dislodged” an Al-Shabaab ambush.  The tweet read, in part…

“During the counterattack, 7 terrorists were killed while others sustained injuries and an assortment of weapons was recovered.” Tweet authorized by Deputy Special Representative of Chairperson of the AU Commission for Somalia Simon Mulongo.

The details that have emerged since paint a far more nefarious and disturbing picture of what really happened on the farmland 2km northeast of Golweyn towards Danow.

In an interview with the BBC’s Mogadishu correspondent Ibrahim Mohamed Aden shortly after the killings, Shalambood District Commissioner Nur Osman Rage indicated that the death of the seven civilians was far from accidental.

“After the brief encounter with Al-Shabaab, the AMISOM officers diverted to a nearby farm, picked an elderly farmer and four of his workers, blindfolded them and paraded them on the tarmac road.  They then stopped two trucks on transit in the area, picked the two drivers, blindfolded them and together with the other five, took them to a point where an IED was planted, forced the civilians to sit on the device and detonated it on the seven victims who were blindfolded, instantly killing them.”

District Commissioner Nur further indicated that this incident was witnessed firsthand by Somali security officers, local elders and many others in the area, a report was later corroborated by Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur, the Governor of the Lower Shabelle region, after personally meeting with local residents.

The day after the killings, under intense pressure from the local community, AMISOM released the following statement…

“AMISOM has since received reports that civilian lives were lost.  Under the applicable International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and Human Rights, AMISOM is obliged and remains deeply committed to carrying out its mandated tasks in Somalia in strict compliance with such obligations.  To this end, AMISOM has launched a thorough investigation into the reported incident.  The investigation team will present its findings, and this will be followed by a Board of Inquiry.”

The actions of the AMISOM troops in Golweyn are both reprehensible and unacceptable and AMISOM must be held accountable for the behavior of their officers.  It is simply not good enough to publish a press release (dated August 21) confirming that, indeed, the seven victims were not members of Al-Shabaab as originally asserted in the tweet of August 10.  And it is simply not good enough to commit to an investigation that will identify and punish the barbaric perpetrators of this heinous act.

Cases of supposed peacekeepers killing civilians in Somalia are becoming far too commonplace as our country continues to struggle with the instability of the region.  The mission of these soldiers is to serve a single purpose, protect the civilians and the country from terrorist operations.  The shocking and senseless civilian executions by soldiers deployed for the sole purpose of protecting our citizens must be thoroughly and impartially investigated by AMISOM and that investigation must be immediate, and the punishment must be exacting.

These acts warrant a swift, transparent, and harsh punishment to the troops that committed these war crimes as well as to the organizations under whose authority these acts were committed.  Nothing else is sufficient.  Nothing else is equitable.

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has been a center of distrust, cover up and controversy in Somalia as a result of its involvement in civilian deaths. Human rights Reports show that AMISOM is responsible for 2% of all civilian deaths in Somalia and that AMISOM efforts did not improved over the last decade. It begged the question: are 2% of all civilian deaths still too many?

Somali People demand answers now.  And we demand accountability today.