Kampala (Caasimada Online) – In Kampala, East African leaders convened for a crucial meeting where they endorsed Somalia’s efforts to eliminate the threat of the Al-Shabab militant group in the East African country.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni hosted the summit, attended by Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Kenya’s President William Ruto, and leaders from other African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) troop-contributing countries.
President Museveni expressed confidence in the region’s ability to tackle the issue, stating, “East Africa solved the problem of Burundi.
So this problem, the way we discussed today, I am sure we can solve it.” The assembled leaders also called for increased financial assistance to facilitate a smooth transition.
Somalia seeks continued support
Somalia’s President Mohamud urged for ongoing backing from neighboring countries, saying, “Still we are requesting and have requested your continued support until the end when Somalia has freed itself off the insecurity, which we all are sure and committed to seeing happen.”
ATMIS, which took over from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in April last year, has a mandate set to expire in December 2024.
The UN Security Council has urged a troop drawdown from December 2022 to June 2023.
Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Defence, Aden Duale, warned that the ATMIS drawdown should guarantee a proportionate force balance to maintain security in Somalia and across the region.
Duale emphasized the importance of regional stability: “It is our responsibility, therefore, to ensure peace, security, and stability within our region to achieve the much-desired economic prosperity.”
Before the heads of state meeting on Thursday, it was agreed that a joint assessment of the security situation, planning, and coordination was necessary for establishing drawdown timelines and preparing Somalia to assume security responsibilities.
Coordinated exit strategy
Defense and Foreign Affairs ministers from troop-contributing countries and ATMIS partners have advocated for a coordinated withdrawal of soldiers from Somalia to avoid undoing security gains.
The African Union (AU) has also echoed Somalia’s call for a complete lifting of the arms embargo, recognizing Mogadishu’s progress in meeting decisive benchmarks outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 2662.
Somalia has been subject to an arms embargo since 1993, initially targeting warlords but later shifting focus to terrorists.
Despite amendments over the years, the Somali government still seeks the freedom to purchase weapons from the market to combat the threat posed by Al-Shabab and other extremist groups.