Ugandan troops under the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) have handed over one of their Forward Operating Bases(FOB) to the Somalia National Army as part of the ongoing efforts for the withdrawal from Somalia.
The UPDF handed over its Forward Operating Base at Albao in Southwest State to the national army on Tuesday.
At the function, Lt Col Steven Kashagama, handed over to the SNA, Capt Mohamed Somali.
Lt. Col. Kashagama expressed confidence in the Somali National Army to secure the population and defend the area against Al-Shabaab.
“We are handing over the security responsibility for Albao and the neighbouring areas to the Somali security forces. For the time I have been with them, they have shown charisma, energy and resilience. I have no doubt they are ready to secure the population,” he said.
The development is part of the ongoing process that will see the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia withdraw 2000 troops by the end of this month in compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions 2628(22) and 2670(22) which require ATMIS to gradually transfer security responsibilities to the Somali security forces.
In March last year, the peacekeeping mission in Somalia named AMISOM metamorphosed into the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia(ATMIS).
Consquently, ATMIS was mandated with stabilising Somalia but also aim at transferring the full responsibilities of national security to the Federal Government of Somalia for the next two years.
Currently, at least four ATMIS Forward Operating Bases previously occupied by the Burundi National Army( three) and UPDF (one) have been handed over to the Somali National Army as part of the transition process that will bring to an end the Africa Union peacekeeping mission which has been in Somalia since 2007.
Uganda was the first country to deploy and has contributed the biggest chunk of troops credited for having at least stabilized Somalia.
The Ugandan troops controlled the largest area in Somalia after being deployed in Sector One in Benadir,(has 16 districts) Banadir, and Lower Shabelle regions having pushed Al Shabaab militants for over 200km away from Mogadishu city.
The troops led by UPDF have been able to send away Al-Shabaab from key urban centres, creating space for Somali elites to build institutions and a political system.
Whereas troop contributing countries and the African Union sought more funds to keep the mission going, donors as Somali authorized felt the mission’s value was waning.
However, counter-insurgency efforts have of late run out steam but on the other hand, Al Shabaab insurgents have continued to gain ground and carry out attacks.
Another big problem for Somalia has been identified as the country’s politics with disputes between the Mogadishu establishment and federal states which undermine the efforts to fight Al Shabaab.
It also remains to be seen whether the new mission aimed at ensuring capacity for Somali institutions especially the army and police will be successful considering the divisions and weakness among these institutions.
Already, in the past few months, Al Shabaab has stepped up attacks , especially on troops.
For example on May 26, at about 5 am, the Jihadist group attacked and overrun a UPDF base at Buulo-Mareer along River Shabelle in the Lower Shabelle region killing 54 soldiers, captured others whereas some were left nursing injuries.
Several other attacks on Somalia National Army and Ethiopian troop bases have also been reported in the past weeks by Al Shabaab.