“The AMISOM: unexpected, unpunished perpetrators of sexual violence and waste of money“
The African Union Mission (AMISOM) is mainly financially supported by the United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU) and was founded in 2007. The European Union contributed the bulk with more than 590.00.000 Euro. Now the EU has agreed to extend their financial support until 2016. (aap-apf-amisom-xi-commission-decision-20130906_en.pdf)
Since 2007 troops have been sent to war torn Somalia, to help regain stability and security. AMISOM troops mainly consist of soldiers from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. However, more African countries are involved in decision-making and implementation. The EU´s strong involvement is through the African Peace Facility (APF), which was, according to the EU-Commission „ (…) set up to support peace and security on the African continent in the framework of the EU-Africa Partnership. The three main strands of action are capacity building, peace support operations and the development of an early response mechanism. “ .
Even though the AMISOM claims involvement with the Somali government, all head positions are occupied by non Somalis. The three main components of AMISOM are Military, Police and Civilian. The Head of Mission is Commander Lieutenant General Silas Ntigurirwa (Burundi). The police section is led by Benson Oyo-Nyeko (Uganda) and the Civilian section by Epiphanie Kabushemeye-Ntamwana (Burundi). It would be a positive statement to give Somalis important positions, for this would lead Somalis to see that they are not only directly influenced in the peace building process of their country, but are as well responsible of working towards a unified Somalia. It would also send a hopeful message to the population if women and men from different tribes would be equally employed. Last but not least, the Somali community would feel that they are actively participating in the AMISOM mission and feel a sense of ownership too.
According to AMISOM, there are 22126 uniformed members with actual positions in Somalia.
Due to the fact that the engaged countries deal with financial issues themselves AMISOM depends mostly on the financial support of the EU and the UN Security Council. A study published by the European Union Institute for Security Studies in January 2014 states that since the input of the AMISOM in Somalia the contribution adds up to 423 million Euros. The EU has agreed on the financial aid through their African Peace Facility (APF), this was planned until December 2013. The same year the EU announced to increase their financial assistance of 124 million Euros ( aap-apf-amisom-xi-commission-decision-20130906_en.pdf ). Now the EU has agreed to extend their financial support until 2016.
In the new resolution on AMISOM from the Security Council, the AU was asked to contribute more financially. If this would mean a relief for the APF´s pocket, or a further increase by the AU´s contribution is not clear. Anyhow, if we take the APF´s finances and other involved, we come to a financial expense of about 45 -50 million Dollars per month. With regard on the Security Council resolution 2232 from the 28.07.2015 the AMISOM´s presence in Somalia was prolonged until 2016. This would mean nine years of AMISOM in Somalia and this would as well mean nine years of about 45 million Dollars per months, which would lead to a total investment of 4.860.000.000 Billion Dollars.
I respect and advocate the idea of an African involvement in Somalia to secure civilians, I do doubt the effectiveness and wonder whether it shouldn’t be possible to cut the expenses and invest them in sectors that would immediately benefit the Somali people. These would for example be infrastructure, stipends for students, agriculture. Before the war Somalia was famous for their cattle trade, as well as for the mounting of various fruits, like mangoes and bananas.
It may not be an African phenomenon that technical help troops turn into perpetrators(AgendaItem77UN.pdf – see 3 under “The problem of context”, Chapter I.) -since the entry of AMISOM there have throughout been complaints from civilians about rape incidents of young women and girls as young as 12, or even attempted murders – but it is a specific sensible issue for the tribal based Somali people who do not have the chance to consider direct legal service, since well trained lawyers are rare and moreover women are afraid of facing stigmatization and exclusion of the community AMISOM cannot succeed without having the trust of the people it’s supposed to protect. Human Rights Watch published a report about the sexual exploitation by AU soldiers that women in Somalia face. When asked about the allegations of their troops, African Union commander Ntigurirwa said, these were “allegations of isolated cases of rape“. This defensive answer is worrying. Someone in a high position should stand up against the violation of vulnerable persons and even if he is right and rape cases are rare, these women and girl deserve a proper investigation and that should be announced, for the love of justice it should not be a question whether it occurs once or a million times. The comment of Ntigurirwa shows the desperate situation these girls and women must be in. We can only hope that the incidents are just as a rare exception as Ntigurirwa stated, but it is unlikely, since cases of rape, or sexual exploitation even when agreed on, are hard to put in numbers, for most of the victims will not speak out, why? Because rape victims often face social stigmatization from the community.
The Somali government announced a proper investigation of the rape cases, which occurred in 2013. The UN estimated that about 1.700 women were raped and that about 70% percent of these rapes were performed by, as the victims described it, men in uniform at the bases. Since then I found out about 2 Somalis, involved in a rape, who were arrested, a prosecution of AMISOM soldiers has not happened yet (https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/11/10/somalia-deeply-flawed-rape-inquiry).
AMISOM is in a position to protect Somali women, but they are treating women as inhumanely as militia groups, like al-Shabaab, from whom they are supposed to be protecting citizens. Both rape women. Of course we shouldn’t and can’t generalize.
In regards of the average salary of an AMISOM soldier, which is about 1000 US Dollar, a very well paid job in comparison to living costs of most of the African countries that are represented, I question, whether the tremendously high amount of money could not be invested better. For example reducing the salary of the foreign soldiers partly, to then hire more Somali men so that they can learn and be involved immediately. Hiring women at AMISOM would be a productive step forward as well – A base could be established with exclusively local and international female staff, to establish a trustworthy contact place for women. The camps for displaced people are completely overcrowded; money could be used to make it more bearable for the people by expanding it. Hospitals face horrible sanitary conditions that increase diseases, investment in proper sanitaries would be a well invested step. Again, I do think that the involvement of AMISOM is helpful, but only if done transparently and apparently we face a lot of issues that need to be addressed by the international community. More reports from different sources should be published more regularly and proper investigations should be undertaken, and the perpetrators of these crimes should be prosecuted by their governments, in addition, the governments should provide financial compensation to the victims for the harm caused or costs incurred in taking medical tests, counseling, loss of employment or support, so that impunity doesn´t become a security for perpetrators within the AMISOM. The African Union chairperson and AU should also openly condemn such acts of violence against women and children whenever they occur.
By Saida Wolff.
The author would like to extend thanks to Stephen A. Lamony, Head of Advocacy and Policy of the CICC for his insightful comments and edits.