Accession hands EAC mandate to fix Somalia’s security
Somalia’s admission to the East African Community now hands the mandate to the bloc to fix the Horn of Africa country’s fluid and volatile security under the region’s strategy that seeks to guide regional level interventions in the peace and security sector, to respond to the nature and form of the ever-evolving security threats.
Experts told The EastAfrican that Somalia comes to the EAC with its baggage of security concerns, which includes Al Shabaab terrorism, proliferation of small arms and smuggling related insecurity via the open 3,000km shoreline – Africa’s longest – which could present new security headache for the region.
However, under the EAC Peace and Security Strategy, the bloc would deploy a regional force to provide the much-needed support to the Somali National Army, similar to the one it sent to Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo last year.
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“We have already seen this happen in DRC, it’s challenges notwithstanding,” says Ugandan regional security expert. “There is nothing that would stop EAC pursuing the same mandate in Somalia, which doesn’t require the UN’s endorsement.”
Uganda, Kenya and Burundi are already active in the Horn of Africa nation, where they are among the troop contributing countries (TCC to the United Nations Security Council mandated 19000-strong African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (Atmis force, fighting al-Shabaab since 2007.
With the mandate of Atmis set to expire in December 2024, TCCs leaders met at State House Entebbe, Uganda in April this year and agreed to continue supporting Somalia’s quest for stability, noting that “the region shall not abandon Somalia and will explore alternative means to guarantee security of Somalia”.
Security analysts interpreted this to imply deployment in Somalia under bilateral or regional arrangement, if the Horn of Africa nation was admitted to a regional security pact by the time of UN mandated force’s exit.
“It means it is up to individual countries to support Somalia. It’s now going to be bilateral or another form of arrangement,” says Dismas Nkunda, regional security analyst, who has done humanitarian work and studied trends in Africa’s conflict hotspots.
In 2006, the EAC Council of Ministers adopted a Peace and Security Strategy in 2006, which guides interventions by member states in the region, to respond to security challenges, as mandated under Article 124 of the Treaty for the establishment of the EAC.
The Article spells out wide-ranging approaches for implementation of security interventions.
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as the bloc strives to have a stable and secure environment that is geared towards promoting development and harmonious living.
Analysts argue that amid new conflicts in the global north and its allies, the there is growing apathy and fatigue within the international community to continue funding Somalia’s “no war but no peace” status quo, which has compelled the UN to end the AU force’s tenure in the Horn of Africa.
“It’s realpolitik. A new world order has set in. UN resources are overstretched,” says lawyer and security analyst Edgar Tabaro, adding that the expiry of the Atmis mandate will require continued presence in Somalia, by armies of the frontier states or that of key actors like Uganda and Burundi.
This is on the basis that the stability of Somalia is of significance to forestall the growing threats of terrorism and proliferation of small arms and light weapons that fuel insecurity in the EAC region, in places like Wajir, northern Kenya, Uganda’s Karamoja sub-region and South Sudan.
For more than a decade, the EAC rejected Somalia’s application to join the bloc, saying it did not meet eligibility criteria due to governance, security, rule of law and social justice challenges – which experts say still exist – but have now been waived as the region seeks a mandate to fix the troubled country.