The new tasks of the African Union Mission in Somalia: chances of success and potential for failure

This report examines the motives for reconfiguring the forces of the African Union Mission in Somalia, the chances of success and potential for failure, the challenges they face, and the future of joint European and American efforts in cooperation with Africans to confront the threat of Al-Shabaab, which recently regained the momentum of its field and military influence in southern Somalia.


After nearly a decade, the African Union and the United Nations Security Council have relied on a new African military force as part of efforts to support the stability and peace process in Somalia, in order to revive the African Union Mission, which is composed of five East African countries, which achieved great goals and achievements in the period between ( 2007-2020), but failed to reduce the security risks passing outside the borders of Somalia, which have hit – and still are – the security of several countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti since 2010, which reveals the extent of the enormity of the security challenge facing Somalia on the one hand and the countries of the Horn of Africa that On the other hand, it includes foreign military bases to protect its interests in the region.

This report addresses the motives for reconfiguring the forces of the African Union Mission in Somalia, the chances of success and potential for failure, the challenges they face, and the future of joint European and American efforts in cooperation with Africans to confront the threat of Al-Shabaab, which regained the momentum of its field and military influence in southern Somalia after years of living under air strikes American and ground forces by Somali military teams specially trained to combat them, in addition to monitoring the outcomes and foreseeing the future of the military presence in Somalia.

Assessment of the African Military Presence in Somalia (2007-2024)

The first African military battalion of 4,000 Ugandan soldiers arrived in the capital, Mogadishu, on March 6, 2007, after the African Union decided to send a peace mission to Somalia in January of the same year, followed by the announcement of the Council of International Security, on February 20, 2007, the issuance of Resolution No. 1744/2007 declaring its support for the African Union’s move to deploy an African peacekeeping mission in Somalia, to replace the Ethiopian forces, and it welcomed the Ethiopian government’s announcement of its readiness to withdraw its forces from Somalia after its sweeping of southern Somalia during The crushing war between Islamic Courts militants and the Ethiopian army in late 2006 (1) .

Since their arrival in Mogadishu fifteen years ago, the African forces have achieved many achievements, perhaps the most prominent of which is forcing Al-Shabaab militants to withdraw from the capital in late 2011, extending the influence of the Somali state in the Lower and Middle Shabelle regions after it was besieged in the capital, in addition to providing protection for the headquarters. Sensitive government facilities and key facilities in Mogadishu, such as the airport and port, in addition to contributing to training operations for the Somali police, providing equipment and contributing to relief efforts by providing protection to United Nations bodies, and the number of those African forces doubled during that period to 22,000 soldiers from six African countries Participation in the African peacekeeping operation (AMISOM), which is spread over five sectors in the center and south of the country (2) .

The units of the African Military Mission (AMISOM) consisted of six African countries, five of which are located in East Africa (Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi), as well as Sierra Leone, which participated in the peacekeeping operation with 850 soldiers, and its soldiers’ mission ended in 2015. Reducing the threat posed by the Mujahideen Youth Movement and providing support for the efforts of the transitional government institutions aimed at controlling stability in the country, in addition to providing facilities for humanitarian efforts and creating favorable conditions in the long term for stability, reconstruction and development, and three other African countries (Nigeria, Ghana, and Zambia In addition to Kenya, Uganda and Sierra Leone, police forces have been sent to Somalia, and these African units are working in the capital, Mogadishu, to provide the necessary training for police personnel and logistical support for some departments of the Somali Police Service (3) .

But the question marks that always arise when looking at the achievements of AMISOM are: Have the African peacekeeping forces achieved tangible achievements from the perspective and strategies of the European Union, which has been financing the African Union Mission in Somalia since 2007? Is there a specific time limit for the complete withdrawal of the African military mission in Somalia? In return for stopping the financial bleeding of European countries? But what is certain is that (AMISOM) has achieved several security and political achievements, but reports indicate that it has achieved limited successes that are not commensurate with the length of time it stayed in Somalia, which extended for more than fifteen years, which is the longest operation period for the union, and it is the widest operation. In the context of its efforts to bring peace to African countries, the cost has exceeded one billion dollars annually since 2014, for reasons related to a number of challenges it faced during its mission to protect the federal government and federal governments (4) . 

In recent years, the African mission has faced external and internal challenges, and perhaps these challenges prompted the mission’s leadership to change its combat strategies and determine the future of its presence in Somalia, and set a deadline of late December 2020, to withdraw from the country, and among those challenges was the reduction of its operations in Somalia; Where the European Union decided, in January 2016, to reduce the salaries of soldiers and workers in the mission by 20 percent, calling on the African Union to search for alternative sources of funding, claiming that there are other peace processes in Africa that also deserve support, and that the European Union does not see any A light at the end of the Somali tunnel, and that it is not ready to fund an endless peacekeeping mission as the United Nations does, in addition to the frequent disagreements between the leadership of the military mission and the Somali government over the formulation and management of the security and military mission’s operations and strategic plans, which has erupted between local leaders(5) .

The new African Union Transitional Mission (ATMIS): drivers and challenges

In light of those challenges faced by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the Peace and Security Council of the African Union adopted a resolution to reconfigure its military mission, on March 8, under the name of the African Union Transition. Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) follows tough talks with the Somali government, which finally culminated in the signing of an agreement between Somalia and the African Union in August 2021, as part of a new effort to reformulate the mandate and configuration of AMISOM operations beyond 2021. In addition to determining the future of the African Union Mission in Somalia (6) .

On the 30th of last March, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution No. 2628 (2022) endorsing the resolution adopted by the African Union regarding the authorization of its military mission in Somalia, and the reconfiguration of its forces from AMISOM to Atmis to become the African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia. Somalia, emphasizing the need to combat Al-Shabab, along with facilitating the electoral process, assuming responsibility for maintaining security, and enabling the Somali army to receive the security file from the African Union Transitional Mission (7) .

The plan to move from the African Peacekeeping Forces (AMISOM) to the African Union Transitional Mission (Atmis) came in response to an internal desire, especially from the Somali side, after nearly 15 years of African military presence in the country. This plan has been developed since 2018, to transfer security responsibilities to the leadership of the Somali security services (the police and the army) and the joint work between the two sides, and for the operation of these African forces to come from the Somali military leaders, as confirmed by the Somali police chief, General Abdi Hassan Hajjar, In a televised statement to him, he said: The African police receive orders from the Somali Police Service and not the other way around, and the African Union agreed with the United Nations to develop security transition mechanisms from AMISOM to Atmis, and the tasks of the new mission will be in line with the state-building efforts and the security transition plan in Somalia (8 ) .

The transition phases to the African Union Transitional Mission consist of four phases, as follows:

  1. Reconfiguration phase of the African Union Mission in Somalia.
  2. Handing over some pockets and security bases to the Somali army.
  3. Implementation of decisive joint military operations between the Somali army and the African forces, in order to hand over the remaining military bases to the Somali side with the aim of receiving the entire security file from the African forces.
  4. African military withdrawal from Somalia by the end of December 2024 (9) .

The new tasks of the African Union Transitional Mission

The tasks of the African Union mission, which should be implemented over a period of three years, starting from April 2022 to December 2024, are as follows:

  1. Weakening the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab movement and the “ISIS” branch in Somalia.
  2. Opening the main supply routes and providing security for the main centers of the state.
  3. Developing the capabilities and capabilities of the Somali forces and enabling them to take over security tasks from the Atmis forces by the end of their mandate in December 2024.
  4. Supporting peace and reconciliation efforts and enhancing political stability in Somalia (10) .

These African forces are deployed in five sectors in the south and center of the country, and despite the approval of the transition process to a new African mission, there are major challenges they face, so what are these challenges and obstacles facing the AMISOM mission in Somalia.

The African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia: Challenges and Obstacles

The efforts of the African Union Mission and European supporters to support Somalia’s security and political stability are still facing challenges and obstacles. Since 2007, achieving security is still an internal and external requirement. For Somalia, the federal governments are still paying a heavy price for maintaining security, while externally, the threats that Formed by armed groups ideologically linked abroad, especially “Al-Qaeda” and ISIS, these fears escalate with the growing influence of the Al-Shabab movement in the past two years in Somalia, taking advantage of political differences between the Prime Minister, Mohamed Hussein Roble, and the country’s President, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.

A number of challenges facing the African Union Transitional Mission (Atmis) lie in the following items:

  • The lack of foreign support for the mission: Since 2018, a European initiative to reduce the salaries of AMISOM soldiers has appeared in public for the first time, as a result of the feeling that no field gains have been achieved on the ground, in contrast to the challenges and security threats in which Somalia lives, and the security threats that cross the borders of Somalia, In addition to the unwillingness of the Somali side to raise its security and intelligence capabilities to confront the threat of Al-Shabaab and ISIS (the Somalia branch), which has sparked European dissatisfaction with the operations of the African Union Mission, but it is now expected that with the start of the formation and redeployment phase of African forces, the mission will receive European support to achieve missions The new African mission, and the implementation of the integrated and joint plan to achieve lasting security stability in Somalia (11) .
  • Conflicts of interest between African countries:What has become common in the club of African countries that have sent their forces to Somalia, their conflicting interests and security and strategic objectives towards Somalia, especially the neighboring countries of Somalia, such as Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia, the deteriorating diplomatic relations between Mogadishu and Nairobi affected the operation of the African Union Mission, just as Mogadishu’s relationship with Uganda Good and marred by disagreements that reached the point of threatening Kampala to withdraw its soldiers from Somalia.As for Ethiopia, it moves in Somali geography based on its security strategies in the face of the threat of Al-Shabab in its own home, and its operations inside the country are also moving according to the data of the Ethiopian war, especially the conflict in the Tigray region, which continues between ebb and flow, and the Ethiopian leadership withdraws a number of its soldiers from Somalia If the need arises, then send them back to Somalia, which may affect the efficacy of African military efforts in Somalia, while Djibouti, which is stationed in Hiran region (central of the country), does not move to implement security operations to maintain security, and its mission has been affected by differences between the two countries, due to Mogadishu relations with Asmara since 2018(12) .
  • Political differences between Somali leaders: There is no doubt that the political setbacks left by the political differences that always revolve between Somali leaders, have adverse effects on the ongoing security efforts in Somalia. He is opposed to an official at the expense of another, which makes the future of the African Union Mission operation also affected by the challenge of curbing the political differences between the Somali leaders, disputes that have impeded Somalia’s progress forward and are always raised by ambiguity in the interim constitution and the lack of legislation and laws separating the powers and tasks between the two heads of the executive authority in Somalia .
  • The rise of Al-Shabaab’s influence: Al-Shabaab ’s operations in the past two years witnessed a remarkable rise, especially in carrying out suicide attacks in the capital, Mogadishu and its suburbs, and controlling villages and towns less than 40 kilometers from the capital, in addition to carrying out direct attacks on military bases belonging to the African forces. The most recent of these was the attack on the town of El Barf in the Middle Shabelle region, 160 km northeast of the capital, which killed about 50 African soldiers from the Burundian forces, on May 3. These attacks targeting African forces raise the morale of the movement’s militants to double their military operations against the Somali army and the forces of the African Union Mission, which represents a threat to the continuation of the operations of the African Union Mission in Somalia (13) .

Somali army: Is it time to take over the security file?

The essence of the conflict that Somalia has witnessed since 1991 is the disintegration of the military establishment (the army, the police, and the intelligence) and its division into clan militias; This led to the collapse of the state, which has not yet succeeded in building an effective army, but its efforts to build the army again failed, and this matter remained a strong demand for many, and within the electoral programs of candidates for the presidential elections since 2012, and the slogan of building the military is still raised by most candidates, which is What enabled the outgoing president, Muhammad Abdullah Farmajo, to tickle the emotions of the army members and was met with unparalleled support that brought him to the presidential palace in 2017, but his attempts to restore this institution’s dignity were unsuccessful, as he divided the army factions between loyalists and opponents, while a number were written off. Of the leaders and members of the army from the records of the army under the pretext that they are clan armed militias, and political differences have hit the cohesion and unity of the Somali army since the failed extension attempt in April 2021.

Security observers question the extent of the Somali army’s ability to take over the security file from African forces within three years, which raises the concern of donors and supporters of the African Union Mission, but it is very difficult – according to observers – for the Somali army to assume full security tasks without a Somali desire to build This institution in a way that enables it to gain the confidence of everyone locally and externally in imposing the security and stability of the country. There are several intertwined factors and challenges that will determine the future ability of the Somali army to maintain security and stability in the country. What are the challenges that the Somali army faces?

Or not:Absence of a Somali vision to build a unified army: The issue of rebuilding armies in countries that collapsed due to civil war within the framework of a unified system remains complex and thorny. The disintegration of armies in the midst of civil wars, the division of their loyalties and their involvement in conflicts, makes it difficult to reconstitute it again, due to the existence of ethnic divisions or religious or territorial; What makes this task a difficult labor. In the Somali model, this issue has been raised for three decades at every stage of state-building in this Arab African country, and the combined international, regional and local efforts are still failing, due to the lack of Somali political will and a prepared ground from the social and clan incubator to rebuild this Army; The clans still retain their weapons and military equipment, while attempts to awaken this sleeping giant by the international community, especially Turkey and the United States of America, are still stumbling, due to fundamental differences in the structure of establishing these military divisions, which suggests that the former Somali leaders did not feel responsible. Building this army as long as the African forces provide full protection, and did not make a great effort to reorganize it and arrange its ranks, away from the electoral propaganda to build an effective army whose slogans soar in the sky without seeing the light(14) .

Second: The divisions of the Somali army: With the opening of the Turkish military base in Mogadishu in late 2017, the role of trained military teams from the Turkish military elite emerged, and these Somali forces became different from their predecessors in terms of their combat quality and ability to carry out specific attacks, and they are police forces, While there are special units trained by the United States of America over the years, specially prepared to combat al-Shabab, but the presence of these military divisions divided between Turkey and the United States and others trained by African forces at the Halni base in Mogadishu, makes the task of unifying those forces and placing them under the banner of a unified combat doctrine, difficult. In the future, this is in addition to the tribal and regional divisions within the army cantons, and this vertical division problem has increased and deepened after the introduction of the federal system, in 2016, and the increase in the political and security conflict between the center and the parties (15) .

Third:in the composition of the Somali army and its impact on its leaders and officers; Army units opposed the project to extend the term of the presidency and parliament for an additional two years in April 2021, and marched towards the capital, which sparked a security crisis in the country, due to political differences over the mechanism for organizing parliamentary and presidential elections; This means that any political dispute will reverberate like wildfire in this military institution, and many politicians and even some high-ranking leaders within the army and police have called for not engaging in political affairs, but those who are calling do not live, so the statement of the Somali police chief, General Abdi Hassan Hajjar, during The election of the parliament speaker, late last April, about not taking responsibility for the security of the elections revealed that he was affected by the political differences between the president of the country and the head of the federal government, a statement that came just hours after he announced the readiness of the police to maintain the security of the parliament elections.(16) .

The future of the African military presence in Somalia

Several factors control the future survival of the African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia and are also determined by external influences, especially by the European Union and the United States, which are deeply concerned about the extent of the growing security risks from Somalia and their expansion in the rest of East African countries, especially in the coming years. If Mogadishu falls Once again, and its state collapsed due to international and regional inaction, the cost of securing the citizens of the West and America and their geopolitical interests in the region will be exorbitant, and the scenario of a proxy war will be more likely between regional proxy powers and groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS in the Horn of Africa, as happened in Somalia in 2006 during the incursion of Ethiopia, with the blessing of the United States, and this African military presence depends on the extent of readiness and sense of responsibility by the Mogadishu government to build an army capable of taking over its security duties, and it constitutes the first line of defense to protect the country from internal and external threats.

Several scenarios emerge about the future of the African military operation in Somalia and the consequences of this African military and political presence, especially from neighboring countries, in addition to the internal effects and its repercussions on the future missions of the new African transitional mission, as follows:

First scenario:It is expected – according to security analysts – that the mission of the African Union Transitional Mission (ATMIS), which is not much different from its predecessor (AMISOM), will be extended only in a cosmetic change in terms of tasks and the replacement of one name with another, and the essence of the tasks of the current mission is to implement mobile military movements (MOBILE TROOPS). ) in southern and central Somalia to undermine the influence of Al-Shabaab, which controls large parts of the south of the country, and it is difficult to predict the possibility of expelling the movement from southern Somalia within three years by the African forces, which the African mission has not been able to do for 15 years, and was only able to expel Al-Shabaab movement from Mogadishu, in 2011, was followed by the liberation of several villages and towns in the Salafi Shabelle region, but the movement returned to it, either by seizing them completely or imposing a security siege on them, which makes the mission of the African Union Mission insufficient to achieve its goals; What exposes it to rupture from the inside due to the strikes of the Al-Shabab movement on the one hand, and the political differences and conflicts in the management of its operations(17) .

The second scenario: Building the capabilities and capabilities of the Somali army: The process of building the capabilities of the Somali army is an urgent necessity to find a Somali state that guarantees the protection of its internal security and political stability, but this requires the desire and political will of the Somali side. To ease the security burden on its regional and international partners, but achieving this requirement faces many challenges, some of which we have already addressed. It is likely that the issue of the survival of the African military presence is determined by the readiness of the Somali army to receive the security file from the African Union mission at the end of 2024 (18) .

Third scenario:Youth movement between ups and downs:Since its emergence to the public in 2007, Al-Shabaab has witnessed ups and downs in line with the security conditions and external challenges it was facing. Between ups and downs, and retreats, the movement maintained a strong military presence in southern and central Somalia, and witnessed during the rule of US President Donald Trump ( 2017-2021), a significant decline in its military performance, especially its military movements and movements as a result of the American raids carried out by drones, which limited the growth of its combat capabilities after the liquidation of many of its leaders due to air strikes, but with the victory of Joe Biden in the American presidency, in 2021 And the intensity of the American raids subsided, the movement reappeared in new pockets and areas such as Hydra, and began to carry out direct attacks here and there. With the risk of rising thisAl-Shabaab, along with the African Union Mission, has developed precise joint military plans, after which its influence is expected to decline, and the Somali army units specially trained to combat al-Shabaab may be able to expel it from new areas in the southern regions of the country in exchange for extending the influence of the state in preparation for the withdrawal of the mission African military from the country.

a summary

The mission of the African Union Mission in Somalia appears to be similar in its entirety to the “foreign multinational forces (NATO) in Afghanistan”, which were finally forced to withdraw from Kabul, in 2021, after nearly two decades, despite the difference in geography between the two countries, given that Somalia is located It is in a vital and important strategic location in Africa, and is located in the heart of the most important global waterways and straits, in addition to its supervision of huge military bases in its geographical surroundings, which undermines the idea that the Kabul scenario will occur in Mogadishu, but if efforts to establish peace and impose political and security stability fail, This scenario will be possible with the eventual exit of African forces from Somalia, in light of the exacerbation of global health, humanitarian, and economic crises as a result of the Russian war on Ukraine and the repercussions of the Corona pandemic on the economies of the countries of the world. With three things:

First: The extent of the continuity and willingness of the European Union and the United States of America to continue the missions of the African Union and support its military and political operations in the country.

Second: The readiness of the Somali federal government to deal seriously with the issue of rebuilding and forming a unified Somali army capable of taking over security tasks from the African side before the African withdrawal date comes in late December 2024.

Third: The effectiveness of the joint military operations between the two sides and the existence of common goals among the African countries participating in the operation, with the aim of coordinating and planning with the Somali side and launching large-scale military campaigns to weaken Al-Shabaab. If these matters are not achieved, the future of state-building efforts in Somalia will be doomed to failure before to achieve its goals.

About the author

Shafi'i start

Shafi’i start

Somali researcher interested in issues of the Horn of AfricaREFERENCE

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SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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