As the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) nears its end in December 2024, Somalia faces a critical moment in its quest for lasting peace and sovereignty. The conclusion of ATMIS, which began as AMISOM in 2007, marks the end of Africa’s longest-running peacekeeping mission. This transition necessitates careful consideration by the Somali government, federal member states, and international stakeholders to address the multifaceted challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

The Somali Government’s decision to end ATMIS by 2024 has sparked a range of reactions and raised pressing questions about the country’s future. A major concern is the potential exclusion of Ethiopian troops from the new mission. Federal member states like Southwest and Jubaland have voiced their fears about the lack of consultation and the disconnect between the central Government’s security strategies and the realities on the ground. This dissonance highlights the critical issue of coordination between Mogadishu and regional administrations.

The absence of a cohesive national security framework exacerbates these concerns. Previously, the national security office included coordinators from each Federal Member State, fostering a unified approach to security. The current gap in this coordination mechanism risks creating information silos and weakening the effectiveness of security operations.

 “Without a robust coordination framework, efforts to ensure national security could unravel, leading to isolated and ineffective operations against insurgent groups”, Abukar Albadri, Journalist and Political Analyst said.

Ethiopian Troops and Regional Stability

Ethiopia, a key contributor to ATMIS forces, is at odds with the Somali Federal Government over several issues, including disputes with Somaliland. Excluding Ethiopian troops from the successor mission could lead to a premature Ethiopian withdrawal, jeopardizing regional stability. Ethiopia’s internal political and financial turmoil further complicates the situation, making a unilateral troop withdrawal unlikely without substantial international mediation.

Looking forward to January 2025, the Somali Government has proposed a new multinational force to replace ATMIS. This proposal, submitted to the UN Security Council, emphasizes the need for continued external support for Somalia’s security forces over the next three to five years. The plan highlights the challenges in building a self-sufficient Somali National Army (SNA) capable of maintaining security independently.

The proposed new mission raised important questions about its structure, financing, and the involvement of neighboring countries such as Kenya, Uganda, and Djibouti. The historical involvement of these countries in Somalia, driven by their own security concerns, suggested that their future roles will require careful negotiation to ensure alignment with Somalia’s sovereignty and security objectives.

 “The future multinational force must support Somalia’s sovereignty while ensuring regional security interests are balanced.” Mohamed Hirmoge said.

The Challenge of Corruption

A recurring issue in discussions about Somalia’s security is corruption. Despite significant investments from international donors, the SNA has struggled with accountability and discipline. Instances of soldiers undergoing training multiple times to receive financial allowances and broader issues of security monetization highlight systemic challenges that must be addressed.

“Without stringent measures to curb corruption, international aid risks being siphoned off, leaving Somali security forces ill-prepared to face insurgent threats.” — Abukar Albadri

Avoiding an Afghanistan Scenario

Comparisons between Somalia and Afghanistan are inevitable, especially in light of the Taliban’s swift takeover after the U.S. withdrawal. Both countries share histories of conflict, external intervention, and insurgent group struggles. However, several factors suggest that Somalia’s situation is different and potentially less prone to a similar outcome. Unlike Afghanistan, where the Taliban had significant territorial control, Al-Shabaab has been weakened by Somali and international forces. Nonetheless, the group’s ability to exploit political and security vacuums remains a significant risk.

Somalia’s Federal structure, despite its challenges, provides a governance framework that Afghanistan lacked. The continued presence of international stakeholders, including the African Union, the European Union, and the United States, is crucial for regional stability. However, if the Somali Government and its international partners fail to address corruption and governance issues, Al-Shabaab could gain strength and destabilize the region.

 “The strength of Al-Shabaab lies in exploiting governance gaps; thus, building a resilient and accountable government is crucial to prevent their resurgence.” — Ali Halane.

Regional Relations and Security Dynamics

The strained relations between Somalia and Ethiopia have escalated tensions and complicated regional security dynamics. Ethiopia’s significant military presence in Somalia, particularly in Southwest and Jubaland, has been a contentious point. Excluding Ethiopian troops from the future multinational force raises broader questions about regional stability and the implications for Somalia’s security landscape.

Ethiopia’s internal conflicts and economic challenges limit its capacity to withdraw troops without creating a security vacuum that Al-Shabaab could exploit. Neighboring countries like Kenya and Djibouti, driven by border security concerns, have vested interests in Somalia’s stability. Somalia must carefully navigate these relationships to ensure its sovereignty while leveraging regional cooperation for security.

“Balancing foreign military presence with national sovereignty is crucial for Somalia to maintain its integrity while securing regional support.” Mohamed Hirmoge, Former Horn of Africa Correspondent for CGTN

The Risk of Mercenary Influence

The introduction of a new multinational force raises concerns about the potential rise of mercenaries. Former peacekeepers and ATMIS veterans may establish private security companies in Somalia, offering protection services to international diplomats and organizations. This could mirror situations in other conflict zones where private military contractors operate with varying degrees of accountability.

To avoid a mercenary-driven security market that could destabilize the region, the Somali government and its international partners must enforce strict regulations and oversight.

“The rise of mercenaries could undermine national security efforts, creating parallel power structures that complicate governance and stability.” — Abukar Albadri

Building a Self-Sufficient Security Apparatus

The proposed multinational force offers a framework for continued international support and stabilization. However, it also presents the risk of perpetuating dependency if not managed with a clear timeline and exit strategy. Somalia must balance external support with the need to build its sovereign capabilities, including training and equipping its forces while addressing corruption and ensuring accountability.

“Building a self-sufficient security apparatus requires not only resources but also robust governance and accountability mechanisms.” — Ali Halane, Former Correspondent for BBC

As ATMIS concludes, Somalia stands at a pivotal point. The decisions made in the coming months will shape the country’s security landscape for years to come. The Somali government, in collaboration with its international partners, must develop a comprehensive and transparent strategy for the post-ATMIS era. This strategy should prioritize building a self-sufficient and accountable security system while maintaining Somalia’s sovereignty and integrity.

The path ahead is challenging, but with careful planning and international cooperation, Somalia can navigate this transition towards a more secure and sovereign future.

This commentary serves as an editorial for Mogadishu24 and aligns with the themes explored in Season 1, Episode 3 of the Sitrep Podcast. In that episode, titled “Somalia Post-ATMIS,” veteran journalists and political analysts Mohamed Hirmoge, Ali Halane, and Abukar Albadri provided in-depth discussions on the future of Somalia following the ATMIS withdrawal. Their insights and perspectives are integral to understanding the complexities and challenges that lie ahead for the country.

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