Ugandan peacekeepers from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) disembark from a plane at Mogadishu’s airport July 1, 2011, at the beginning of their mission in the lawless horn of African nation. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
The African Union troops, AMISOM in Somalia are mandated under UN Resolution (2297) to provide security and stability to Somalia’s Fragile Government. The mission has three fundamental functions 1) to fight terrorism Alshabaab, 2) to provide support and protection to Somali Government in Somalia and 3) to foster peace, reconciliation, and political stability. The AMISOM and Somali Army troops fight side by side to combat Al-Shabaab terrorists who have begun a relentless campaign of violence in South Central Somalia since 2007.
As a diaspora community, we recognise the huge human sacrifices being endured by AMISOM and Somali Army troops in their mission to defeat terrorism. As a diaspora, this is something in our own conscience, which we deeply appreciate. Somalia is forever indebted to these combined human sacrifices. These combined human sacrifices are not taken lightly by our diaspora community. It is also fair to acknowledge the real achievements that have been collectively achieved by Somalia with the unwavering support of international partners in the area of security, political stability, urgent humanitarian intervention by UK Government, growing democratic ethos, and partial economic development supporting local economies
However, what we have also witnessed with evidence on the ground is the un- accountable nature of the AMISOM troops in Somalia. Evidence on the ground suggest there have been widespread rapes of Somali women by AMISOM soldiers with no single prosecution, there are young and old people they have run over with heavy military vehicle with deadly consequences. They have confiscated people’s lands without the owner’s agreements or paying any rent towards such use for properties.
I have personally taken a case to Addis Ababa African Union HQ and to the Somali Desk at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office personally handing the case to Lord William Hague, former Foreign Secretary during a community event in May 2014. To date, there have been no movements and not even a formal response from the African Union despite many attempts by UK Foreign Ministers and diplomats in Addis Ababa to help find a resolution to the case. The lack of response from AU and the utter contempt they have shown to the community and British Government only further exposes the degree of impunity they enjoy.
Having studied and analysed the AMISIOM Mission Mandate there is an optional requirement for AMISOM to set up Standing Claims Commission (page 18) in cases of dispute between AMISOM and private citizens. That has not been forth-coming for the past five years of the cases I have been involved in. A mandate without strong teeth and accountability and international oversight, especially where there are serious human rights violations is a serious failure that needs urgent redress by international actors engaged in the development of Somalia.
The AMISOM Mandate (pages 1, 4 and 18) and Recent European and AU Summit 2nd and 3rd April 2014 Communiqué pages 2, 8 and 10) conclude: Human Rights and individual rights are essential pre-requisite for stability and peace – and provides the conditions for sustaining peace and preventing conflicts – One wonders, once you study these human rights abuse cases, whether these agreements or documents are only a lip service (without credibility)
These cases have highlighted the current mechanism available is not fit for purpose and cannot as evidenced be seen to be effective in finding a resolution for individual cases. It borders a complete disgrace. What we have is the perpetrators (AMISOM) investigating its own human rights abuse cases/crimes without an independent oversight. This is also fundamental short-comings and failure from the international efforts towards Somalia.
As a response to these claims – the only response one receives from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Somali Desk is a polite diplomatic response, which fails the vulnerable people of Somalia. Once you engage with the civil servants and Ministers, you get the feeling these serious human rights abuses are a sideshow to them – and what matters to them is ONLY the AMISOM Mission and its fight against terrorism, losing sight of the fact that unresolved human right abuses only add to terrorism recruitment.
This impunity is the unacceptable face of AMISOM and the international response towards Somalia. It is unsustainable and counterproductive to the fight against terrorism. These crimes and its unaccountable nature only strengthen the Al -Shabaab recruitment drive and we can no longer stay silent about it. As Somali citizens in Somalia and in the Diaspora, we deserve a better settlement for our vulnerable citizens from the international community. My fear is that without effective resolution and checks/balance on human rights violations, the AMISOM mission will de-facto become an occupation force as they are currently beyond the reach of Somali Police Force and Somali courts, immunity that stems from the AMISOM Mandate granted by UN resolution 2297.
It is my view this is an unacceptable state of affairs, when UK/EU funds are not properly being spent on the very uses requested for by AU, leading to human rights abuses against Somali citizens in Somalia and in Europe, further indirectly implicating relevant donor countries as there is no strong accountability mechanism in place.
I had hoped UK or donors Funds had strict safeguards against human rights abuses and I took the view that such funds are conditional for the promotion of good governance and human rights – but these cases suggest otherwise. I have experienced at firsthand how AU behaves in cases of human rights or property right abuses, and how they continue to ignore repeated requests from Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers and diplomats as well as Somali Government Institutions as far as the Somali President’s and Prime Minister’s Offices.
In the next coming weeks, we will be working with our Member of Parliaments in UK and Somalia to each set up an investigation into these abuses. We are also aware of the coming London Somali Conference on 11th May 2017 entitled Mutual Accountability between Partners. A conference intended to discuss the future security, developmental needs and accountability between partners in Somalia is not a meaningful conference without addressing fundamental human rights abuses by AMISOM who are mandated under a UN mandate and form part of the international effort towards Somalia. Despite the progress on the ground, failure to address these serious concerns of human rights abuses will be a dereliction of duty from the international actors that are engaged in Somalia. We urge the international community not make this Conference “a Talk Shop” between donors and recipients, but a comprehensive meaningful accountability based conference where the concerns British/Somali citizens are addressed in relation to AMISOM human rights violations.
With things as they are, I believe these cases are the tip of the iceberg. I am concerned for many more Somali citizens who have no influence or people to raise their cases with AU who are suffering in silence. This is why I feel this issue is a Scandal and would not win hearts and minds of the Somali community in Somalia and abroad. It will only fuel further terrorism recruitment, which is politically and militarily counter-productive to AMISOM and international in Somalia.
It seems the alternative (AMISOM) to warlordism, terrorism, and chaos is also engaged in injustice and human rights abuses. This must not be allowed to carry on without the right effective check and balances.
The Somali public and its Government and the international community should start seriously thinking about re-building the Somali Army as the only entity that will protect its citizens with dignity and respect if the international community failed to show actionable commitment to human rights abuses.
Mohamed Ibrahim is the chair of the London Somali Youth Forum (LSYF)