Kenya is to send close to 5,000 soldiers to serve under a new look African Union Mission to Somalia. The United Nation Security Council last week released details on the strength and command structure of the expanded Amisom peacekeeping force.
A report by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reveals that Kenya will provide 4,700 troops and will be based in Sector 2, covering Middle and Lower Juba regions (Kismayu). Till now, the Kenya Defence Forces, which entered Somalia in October last year, have been secretive on the number of troops on the ground, although it is estimated Nairobi has at least 2,000 soldiers in the neighbouring country.
The UN has authorised Uganda and Burundi to increase their troop levels in Somalia to reach the 12,000 mark, up from their current strength of 9,500 troops.
Kenya, defence officials said, is awaiting a decision by the AU and the UN Security Councils on when the country can formally join the Somalia mission. The cost of deploying 17,731 troops is likely to double Amisom’s budget from the 2011 figure of $247 million to between $450 million and $500 million.
Assistant Minister for Defence David Musila said Kenya must complete its self-declared Operation Linda Nchi before joining Amisom. It is understood that the thinking is that this would avoid creating a power vacuum that could see a resurgence of Islamist militants in the lawless Horn of Africa country.
Once Kenya joins, the total number of Amisom troops will be 17,731 uniformed personnel. They will be based in four sectors:Sector 1 with 9,500 troops from Uganda and Burundi operate from Banadir (Mogadishu) and Middle and Lower Shabelle regions;Sector 2, covering Middle and Lower Juba regions (Kismayu), where Kenya will provide 4,700 troops;Sector 3 will cover Gedo, Bay and Bakool (Baidoa) and western part of Hiraan and will be policed by the 2,500 fresh troops to be generated from Burundi and Uganda; Sector 4 will cover Galgudud, Mudug and part of the Hiraan regions (Beledweyne) and will be policed by 1,000 troops from Djibouti
Each sector will have a logistical hub, with structures to house headquarters, medical facilities and stores. The remainder of the sector forces will maintain tactical camps to allow them to respond to the changing operational situation. The Force Commander would have two Deputy Force Commanders, one for operations and plans and another for support, as well as a Force Chief of Staff.
Earlier, there were concerns that Kenya would not be willing to place its troops under Ugandan command once it joined Amisom. But Mr Musila said that the command structures have been negotiated and no country will feel inferior to the other because it will be a joint command.
The UN will continue to provide the current support package and limited self-sustainment in accordance with previous Security Council resolutions. In addition, the reimbursement of contingent-owned equipment, including enablers and multipliers, will be covered from assessed contributions under an extended logistical support package.
Only equipment deployed by the troop-contributing countries and considered to be owned by troop-contributing countries will be reimbursed. Equipment donated to Amisom or where the ownership still remains with the donor would not be reimbursed.
Mr Ki-moon however noted that failure to secure enablers (equipment) and force multipliers would have a negative impact on consolidating the gains achieved and expanding operations, requiring higher costs of operations in the long run.
At the moment, the AU and UN planners are working to develop a strategic concept for future Amisom operations in Somalia. The concept aims at joining all the separate ongoing military operations in Somalia into a co-ordinated and coherent effort against Al Shabaab, which will be critical to extending the authority of the Transitional Federal Government beyond the capital and to creating space for the effective implementation of the Somalia peace roadmap.
In Mogadishu, Amisom has continued to consolidate its control over all districts of the city and has begun operations on its outskirts. Outside Mogadishu, the combined operations of Kenyan military and Ethiopian troops working with forces allied with the TFG have continued to gain ground, including taking Beledweyne in December 2011.