Lessons Learned in Somalia: AMISOM and Contemporary Peace Enforcement

Peace enforcement missions have been in vogue over the last decade, particularly in Africa. From Afghanistan to central Africa, Lake Chad to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia to the Sahel, various international organizations and coalitions of states have been tasked with fighting for peace against various “spoilers,” “insurgents,” or “terrorists.”

But these missions have run up against some very difficult problems, not least of which are: how to help stabilize areas where there is no functional central government or a peace process; how to combat transnational armed groups that use asymmetric and terror tactics but also retain deep roots in segments of the local population; how multiple international organizations and states can partner effectively to defeat such foes; and how to do all this when there is usually a huge gap between the mission’s capabilities and its mandated tasks, and political leaders are looking to slash budgets?

Another problem is how analysts and practitioners alike should set expectations for such missions and evaluate their success and failure? All these missions have cost considerable blood and treasure. But it is not clear how to evaluate whether they were worth the costs, in part because it has been difficult for researchers to collect reliable information about how these missions operate.

In my new book, Fighting for Peace in Somalia, I delved into the operational details of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to try and shed light on these and other questions about contemporary peace enforcement missions and the international partnerships that underpin them. Initially comprising just 1,600 Ugandan soldiers who were deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital city, in March 2007, these African peacekeepers have played the leading role in combating al-Shabab, one of the world’s deadliest insurgencies.

Along the way, AMISOM has also been mandated to help protect political VIPs in Somalia, build the country’s new national security forces, support various electoral processes, and facilitate humanitarian assistance. Now in its eleventh year, AMISOM is remarkable in several respects. It is the African Union’s (AU) longest running and largest peace operation by a considerable margin. By mid-2017 it was the largest deployment of uniformed peacekeepers in the world with over 22,000 personnel.

Source: Council On Foreign Relations