The UN is to boost its number of staffers based in Mogadishu from 4 to 24 by the end of the year, an official in the UN Political Office for Somalia told Somalia Report.
The United Nations Special Representative for Somalia Augustine Mahiga, in an address to the UN Security Council, said that the UN would begin to relocate its Somalia operations from the Kenyan capital Nairobi in the next four months. Mohammed Yusuf reports.
His statement followed on from the withdrawal of militant Islamist group al-Shabaab from the capital at the weekend.
“We are now actively planning for an expanded UN presence inside Somalia, rather than the ‘light footprint’ we had envisaged,” Mahiga said. “It is thus mission critical that we secure the logistical support, including a fast-tracked construction of permanent facilities to pave the way for the deployment of additional staff in Somalia, particularly in Mogadishu.”
While the UNPOS official said the plans were aiming for 24 staffers, this is not much different from previous figures. A source close to the Somali government last month told Somalia Report that a base was being built at Aden Adde international airport, which would house 20 UN staffers.
Mahiga also called for more support to be given to AMISOM, following on for requests from the force commander for more troops. The force is mandated for 12,000, although only around 9,000 Ugandan and Burundian troops are in place. The African Union had called for 20,000 soldiers.
AMISOM and Mahiga both say that more peacekeepers are crucial to maintain security in the capital amid expanded territory to patrol and more complex tasks. Mahiga said there was s need to create additional guards under the African Union forces’ command to provide protection and facilitate movement for UN staff in Mogadishu.
“I ask the council to seriously consider bringing forward the proposed guard force with the resources that are available and all that it entails in order to ensure that AMISOM can successfully meet these new challenges and adapt to the new reality on the ground in Mogadishu,” he said.
While al-Shabaab has deserted its bases, the group has said it will turn to urban guerrilla tactics, which would mean more ambushes, IEDs and suicide attacks. Any UN base or staff in Mogadishu would be prime targets for such tactics.
Most immediately pressing was the need to secure access for international humanitarian agencies seeking to bring food and supplies for famine victims into the capital, Mahiga said.
Several events concerning Somalia are scheduled to take place in the coming months, including another briefing to the Security Council and a high-level “summit of ministers” to take place on 23 September on the sidelines of the General Assembly. Among other goals, that meeting would aim to sustain international attention on Somalia. It would also seek to reinforce the humanitarian response to the drought, which was likely to persist until the region’s next harvest season, nearly six months away.