SOMALIA: The $90 million race against Al-Shabab

ADDIS-ABABA, Ethiopia (Caasimada Online) – The African Union (AU) made an urgent appeal for nearly $90 million on Wednesday to fund its peacekeeping force in Somalia.

The force supports the nation’s military in their ongoing battle against al-Shabab extremists.

Ambassador Bankole Adeoye, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security, expressed concern that the 19,600-strong AU force could not function effectively without filling this funding gap.

Ambassador Adeoye noted that the current Somali government is taking a proactive approach against al-Shabab, launching a full-scale offensive rather than merely reacting to the group’s attacks.

“There’s a need to encourage that offensive onslaught,” he said.

This change in strategy comes as local communities and militias, pushed to the brink by al-Shabab’s harsh taxation policies and the country’s worst drought on record, have become increasingly involved in fighting the extremist group.

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared “total war” on the thousands of al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremists last year.

For over a decade, they have controlled parts of the country, carried out devastating attacks, exploited clan divisions, and extorted millions of dollars in their quest to establish an Islamic state.

ATMIS’s financial struggles

A significant factor contributing to the AU’s financial troubles is the European Union’s $60 million funding cut due to competing interests.

Following his conversation with reporters, Ambassador Adeoye attended a high-level meeting with UN member nations to discuss financing for the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).

He hoped that all countries, particularly Gulf nations, the global south, and the EU, would contribute to filling the $89 million funding gap.

A year ago, the UN Security Council unanimously approved the establishment of ATMIS to support Somalia until their forces assume full responsibility for the country’s security by the end of 2024.

If the AU force does not receive the necessary funding within the next 21 months, Adeoye warned that al-Shabab could eventually assume the responsibilities of a state in Somalia.

“The implications are huge,” he said, urging the international community not to lose focus on the situation.

US steps up military assistance

As Somalia has seen success in battling al-Shabab, the United States has increased its military assistance. On March 1, 61 tons of weapons and ammunition arrived in the capital, Mogadishu.

Ambassador Adeoye drew parallels to the support given to Ukraine in its Fight for sovereignty, stating, “Now the Somalis are doing the fighting, and we need to all encourage that fight by ensuring that the peace support operation of the African Union does not fail.”

A lack of resources, however, could affect the withdrawal date for the AU force. Adeoye warned that an uncoordinated AU withdrawal would be worse than the chaotic withdrawal of US-led NATO forces from Afghanistan in August 2021 and would impact the entire region.

Al-Shabab’s resilience continues

According to Adeoye, Somali forces have “improved tremendously militarily” and on the political side, having worked with the AU in supporting elections last year.

However, he acknowledged that al-Shabab has been in Somalia for almost 20 years and is adapting to a more robust Somali security force.

“They are resilient, so we must be above game,” said Adeoye. In addition to resources for training and paying troops, he urged support for acquiring state-of-the-art offensive weapons from countries with the means to make an impact.