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Get the AMISOM Soldiers Out of Somalia!

By Gérard Prunier

On Sunday, February 22nd eleven Burundian soldiers belonging to the African Union Mission to Somalia(AMISOM) were killed in Mogadiscio while fifteen others were wounded in a suicide bombing attack against their camp. The attack had been carried out by two Shebab militants and for observers of the Somalian scene, this was highly predictable. What is worse is that there is more to come.

This is why the 3,700 Burundian and Ugandan soldiers with AMISOM who are present in Mogadiscio should rapidly be taken out. Why? There are several reasons for this unorthodox recommendation:

1. The AMISOM soldiers now in Somalia are under-equipped, under-trained, and have a low morale. They do not know why they are there, their mission is opaque and their cultural environment is hostile. Contrary to what would seem to be the case, the label “African” does not carry much weight in Somalia. Somalis, like many people of the Horn, do not consider themselves to be “Africans.” While they may be classified as such in the rarefied and politically correct environment of the UN-New York or the AU-Addis Ababa, they are Somali first and then Muslim. “African,” yes, perhaps, if you insist, but the Ugandans and the Burundians are Christians and therefore kufar (singular: kafir). As for having a black skin it is even worse: in Somalia that makes you a very low sort of kafir. Not a very auspicious start when you are asked to risk your life in order to save people who despise you. Like the troops of Operation Restore Hope and the Ethiopians, earlier this month, AMISOM troops indiscriminately killed the very civilians they had come to save. Clearly, saving the Somali is tough business.

2. The AMISOM military situation is awful. They are exactly in the position where the Ethiopian Army was during the two years of occupation through January 2009. Yet, AMISOM is without the military training and the capacity of the Ethiopian Army, and without the grudging respect the Ethiopians could elicit from the Somali. The Somali are warriors and they respected the macho courage of the Ethiopians, even if they hated them. They do not respect the AMISOM soldiers, which puts the soldiers in a situation of double jeopardy: they are asked to perform an impossible task under unreasonable conditions in an environment where the “beneficiaries” want them to go away.

3. Far from helping to “restore order” for the benefit of Somalia’s new Transitional Federal Government (TFG) President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, they instead hamper the desired order. Why? Simply because they are foreigners and the Somali hate foreigners, particularly armed foreigners, as the white troops of Operation Restore Hope discovered between 1992 and 1995. This hatred of “invading” foreigners, which is a traditional trait of Somali culture, has gotten even stronger as Somalia sank deeper and deeper into a morass of anarchy and economic collapse. Pride is the only thing left to the Somali and they have a double dose of it. Sheikh Sharif is desperately trying to restore some semblance of a state and the presence of AMISOM, far from helping him, gives a focus point for the most rabid anti-Christian, anti-foreign elements among the Somali Islamists. Sheikh Sharif is beginning to be seen as “pro-American” and “pro-Ethiopian,” a political kiss of death in Somalia. Just like the presence of the Ethiopians enabled the Islamists to unite under their banner, the presence of the AMISOM soldiers greatly helps the Shebab to present themselves as defenders of the Somali nation. A good propaganda line.

This is why, in everybody’s interest, the AMISOM soldiers should go before more of them die uselessly and before they kill more Somali civilians. Let the Somali sort out their own affairs. Seventeen years of foreign meddling has not proven to be very efficient, especially when the meddling is carried out by armed foreigners.

Gérard Prunier is a widely acclaimed journalist as well as the Director of the French Centre for Ethiopian Studies in Addis Ababa. He has published over 120 articles and five books, including The Rwanda Crisis and Darfur: A 21st Century Genocide. His most recent book, Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe focuses on Congo, the Rwandan genocide, and events that led to the death of some four million people. Living in Ethiopia allows Prunier a unique view of the politics and current events of Central and Eastern Africa. Be sure to check back on Tuesdays to read more Notes From Africa.

Recent Comments

  1. john

    what do you mean foreigners?? are african peacekeepers more foreigners than the afghan and arab suicide bombers in somalia??

  2. Kenyan

    Somalia is a country that might not find peace anytime soon because of clan wars and sub-clan wars. They also don’t know how they are. It is interesting that you said

    “Contrary to what would seem to be the case, the label “African” does not carry much weight in Somalia. ”

    Somalis don’t believe they are black. I met many somalis in kenya who insult black people and degrade bantus like the KKK. Somalia should not be in the African Union, but in the Arab League.
    They also have religious confusion. They think Ethiopians are christian crusaders but Ethiopia actually has 3 times more Muslim population than Somalia. In fact, history shows Ethiopia accepted Islam before the Arab friends of Somalia.

  3. peter

    one factual error, gerard. despite the initial reports that burundian troops opened fire indiscriminately in mogadishu last month, two inquiries have completely exonerated them of the charge. the civilians were killed by the suicide bomber that attacked the troops. the attack occurred the day after sheikh sharif’s election, and was timed to upstage his arrival at the african union summit.

  4. ahmed

    i agree on many issues that u have raised, but i also disagree with you on many other claims u stated, first of all we somalis are black and we consider ourself africans, we just dont consider somalis to be bantu africans, but somali cushtic africans, and if u as bantu africans dont like that, tough luck, and yes we do have a pride that many africans dont have, and that can be as good as bad for a nation, and please stop the tribal somalia cos we all know that whole of africa is just like somalia, imagin during the election of kenya instead of banga’s and sticks if the people of kenya had serious weapons, when somalia goverment collapsed also the 3 largest army and weaponarry of africa dissapeared into different tribes… and as for the aceptance of the armed foreigners in somali soil by the president, is highest treason any somali can commit, its the best way forward to have those boys to pack and go home

  5. DT

    Somali people always consider Arab jihadists as somalis because Somalis don’t consider themselves Black.
    That is the reason why Somali people don’t tell the Arab Shabab commanders and arab suicide bombers to leave Somalia. They only ask for Africans to leave Somalia. Suicide bombing is not in the culture of Somali people so they need Arabs to come to Somalia. By the way, not all somalis do this. Only some clans

  6. Richard

    I think your argument is lacking in facts and relies more on opinions and assumptions. Firstly i would like to know how you get the impression that the african union troops are lacking morale, or they lack training. I think everyone is quite impressed by their achievements. They have done a wonderful job given their mandate which has been to preserve government infrastructure ie ports roads and airport to open a route for aid into Somalia. Their Mandate is not to impose peace. America with 20000 troops could not stay in somalia for over 6 months but they have been there for 3 years now. Please acknowledge their achievements.

  7. Joshua Kato

    I also do not agree that the AMISOM soldiers are not well trained and exposed too. Ugandan soldiers have been fighting similar wars for the last 23 years. Just like the Burundians have been fighting insurgents for many years. Both these countries have got highly trained soldiers who are able to withstand any kind of battles. About armaments, i think that the troops have got the neccessary weapons for ground war fare. They have armored personnel carriers like the South African (BAE) made Mamba that can person as good as any APC in the world, they have MBTs and transports. What perhaps they lack is the Helicopter support element.


    The over – hyped presidential “election” among the isaak clan after all somaliland is ethnic cleansed one-clan based secessionist enclave , It is above all a well-organised show to con the international community for recognition. The “elected” leader Mr Ahmed Silanyo witch is a Isaak is Accused of war crimes and crimes against Humanity committed by him During His term as the leader of the isaak militia known as Somali National Movement(SNM) in the 1980s and 1990s in Somalia.

  9. Mike

    Gerald, you claim to be an aclaimed journalist, who has published a couple of books on Africa…but your perception of the continent is pitiful…it only shows how you despise the people on this continent. You cannot say, Somalia should be left to sort itself out, when the years of the conflict only shows the opposite. You can suggest anything else, but not discouraging the troops who sacrifice their lives to create relative peace in parts of the city.

  10. Bashiir Mohamed Maalin

    About 6 thousand of Troops From Uganda and Burundi their Job is to Capture the Important financial points of starving Somali People, like The Sea Port ,The Air Port and most important transport Roads of Mogadishu the capital city.
    They fire heavy artillery machine guns to the civilian residing areas far from the battle fields and claim that the insurgents attacked their Military bases is that is Peace keeping? ……………………………….
    The World have to know that somalis are all ploticians and aware that The US and EU ,AU Sent this Troops to overcome every peace activity and I beleive that somalia’s solotion will never come in Millitry POWER .
    We all Remember UNITED STATES’s Leading UNISOM Mission had failed and 18 US Rangers Killed baly in Mogadishu Streets, that is all and that is Example that POWER is Not the Best Solution…

  11. Bashiir Mohamed Maalin

    The So Called Joshua Kato, what Troops you are Talking about? i think you were Deployed among these Black Servants of America Called (AMISOM) hhh well you know what kind of place Mogadishu is? you are talking about Well Trained Troops and Well Equiped yess that is right but i ask you who Equiped them and pay their Sallary? of course AMERICA coz they don’t wanty to burn their bones in Mogadishu they know What Somalis are and remember the 1993-1994 Lessons………… you Black Servents will never Wake UP untill you Wounded or Die!!!

  12. real somali

    I wonder those who have said that the amisom is doing good job in somalia,is obvious they are not doing good job,they killing innocent people and shelling every night and every day somalian people in mogadisho.

    realy they are commiting war crime and shoulnd face in justice. they are not welcoming to somalia and they must go now.

    let me point u one point, amisom got millions of dollers from european uninon and somalian army are with out sallary even 50 dollar, so amisom have hidden agenda in mogadisho and we all knows that.

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