SNA chief clashes with AMISOM force commander over anti-Al-Shabaab offensive
MOGADISHU, Somalia – A dispute has arisen between the Somali national army [SNA] and the African Union Mission Forces [AMISOM] in Somalia, reports the Voice of America, in what could potentially ruin the gains made so far in the fight against Al-Shabaab militants.
VOA Somali claims that SNA chief Gen. Odowaa Yusuf Rageh wrote a letter of protest to AMISOM chief and AU Ambassador Francisco Madeira, informing him of the stormy statements that he exchanged with the Force Commander, General Diomedes Ndegeya, regarding the anti-al-Shabaab offensive launched in the Shabelle region last May.
The SNA chief has raised many questions about the commitment of African Union troops to fighting al-Shabaab while serving in Somalia since 2007.
In the July 4 letter, VOA reveals, Odowaa, who was elevated to rank in 2019 by outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, told Madeira that Ndegeya’s remarks did not paint a good picture of the situation on the ground and aimed to cover up the failure of the Burundian army to fight al-Shabaab.
AMISOM is headed by Lieutenant Ndegeya, who took over as force commander this year and is from Burundi. General Odowa criticized the Burundian troops for being “lazy” adding that “they do not want to help us in the fight against Al-Shabaab.
But Lt. Gen. Ndegeya accused Odowaa of planning and executing the operation himself, adding that it was when he failed that he asked for AMISOM support, which was rejected. . But SNA says the operation was successful without the intervention of AMISOM.
In addition to accusing the Burundian contingent of laziness, the head of the Somali army also claimed that the troops were going to fetch water in an area 13 km from their bases using a helicopter instead. to reopen the roads blocked by Al-Shabaab.
This is the first major criticism from a senior Somali military official against AMISOM, which has broadly supported law and order in the country. AMISOM was first sent in 2009 to help in the fight against Al-Shabaab in addition to promoting peace in the country.
According to several sources, the dispute was caused by poor communication and a lack of proper coordination between SNA forces and the AMISOM team during military operations in Middle Shabelle which ended a fortnight ago.
General Odowaa Yusuf Rageh himself coordinated the crackdown, breaking military protocols that have existed for decades. The operation killed nearly 100 Al-Shabaab militants, and dozens more have been arrested, security officials have confirmed.
In addition, the operation, in which AMISOM was not involved, led to the destruction of several Al-Shabaab bases in Somalia in addition to the capture of strategic towns from militants. The SNA force called off the operations about two weeks ago, calling them “successful.”
A senior AMISOM official said SNA officers had not briefed them on plans for operations, but the African force has yet to make a formal statement. However, the SNA claims that the operation was successful without AMISOM, accusing them of “losing interest” in the fight against Al-Shabaab.
Currently, there are nearly 22,000 AMISOM troops in Somalia whose terms could expire in December upon full implementation of the Somali Transition Plan. [STP]. Somali forces are expected to take over security responsibilities from AMISOM.
However, a recent report released by the independent AU mission established the dangers of Somalia’s subsequent withdrawal, giving four major recommendations. Three of the recommendations suggested renaming AMISOM while the fourth option preferred leaving the country.
The Somali government has since criticized the report, arguing that AMISOM troops are expected to leave in the coming months. Among the force contributing countries are Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Uganda and Burundi.
The revelation comes just hours after the U.S. Africa Command launched the first airstrike under President Joe Biden’s administration. The Pentagon confirmed the strike in Galkayo, in the Mudug region, but gave no assessment, adding that “the airstrike was aimed at Al-Shabaab who were fighting the Danab commandos”.
But according to senior military officials within the SNA, the airstrike in the village of Caad, north of Ba’adweyn in Mudug, killed at least 50 Al-Shabaab militants. Among the dead activists, officials said, three were foreigners but their nationality was not disclosed.