Somali National Army (SNA)
Once regarded as one of Africa’s best armies, the Somali National Army (SNA) has had better days before its disintegration with the collapse of the central government in 1991. The fall of the central government in 1991 brought about the collapse of the state institutions, and the military was not spared. The army is currently restructuring in the hope of restoring calm and order to the country following two decades of incessant conflict.
Restructuring Somalia’s army remains the country’s uppermost priority. The Somali National Army (SNA) still struggles with its performance, suffering from low morale, lack of basic equipment and all this in the face of bloody attacks from Al-Shabaab. Building a capable army after years of war in Somalia is no feel they have a sense of responsibility to their country.
The Transitional Federal Government (TFG), formed in 2004, controlled several thousand trained army soldiers. Other various TFG-allied groups throughout Somalia were estimated to control militias ranging in strength from hundreds to thousands. The TFG and some groups possessed limited inventories of older armored vehicles and other heavy weapons, and small arms are prevalent throughout Somalia.
Many of Somalia’s militia are slowly integrating into battalions and brigades that form the nucleus of the Somali National Army (SNA) in Mogadishu. Outside the capital city, militia that were initially proxy forces for Ethiopia or Kenya may be incorporated into a national command-and-control structure. All of this is supported by Western aid that provides salaries, training, equipment and mentors to professionalize the SNA – much of which has been funded by the United States.
In 2011, the tide began to turn dramatically against Al Shabab. The African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) partnered with former clan-based militia in Mogadishu that had been integrated into a nominal Somali National Army (SNA). They succeeded in pressuring Al Shabab to execute a “tactical withdrawal" from Mogadishu in August 2011, and subsequently liberated several key towns in Lower and Middle Shabelle regions from Al Shabab control.
In March 2013, the UN Security Council eased restrictions on selling arms to Somalia, lifting an embargo put in place 20 years ago to stop the sale of weapons to warlords. The move will help the army to better equip itself, but more logistical and financial assistance is needed from the international community. Ethiopia, which has troops deployed in Somalia, has signaled its frustration with the pace of military progress in the country. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn told his country's parliament in April 2013 he is anxious to pull troops out of Somalia, as soon as Somali and AU forces take over.
The Security Council mandated the UN in Somalia (in resolution 2124) to provide assistance and advice to the Somali security forces in accordance with the UN’s Human Rights and Due Diligence Policy. They can only be certified by their training providers, including AMISOM and European Union Training Mission, once they have undergone training on International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law.
The National army supported by AU peacekeepers engaged in military battle with Al-Shabaab. In the concluded successful joint offensive between the Somali army supported African Union forces saw Al Shabaab lose 10 major towns which were previously under their control.
On 26 March 2015, the Defence Working Group under the New Deal structure held its first meeting since November 2014. Discussions focused on the Guulwade (Victory) Plan of the Federal Government, developed with technical assistance from UNSOM. The plan outlines the Somali national army’s arms and equipment needs for improved joint operations, consistent with the AMISOM concept of operations, and provides a framework for the first phase of longer-term development of the national army. The plan was presented by the Ministry of Defence and endorsed at the meeting of the Working Group on Peacebuilding and State-building Goal 2 (security) in Mogadishu on 23 April 2015.
At the same meeting, the strategic plan of the Commission on Regional Militia Integration, established on 26 March, was presented, outlining the proposed integration of regional forces into federal security structures. UNSOM is providing strategic advice and support to the work of the Commission to facilitate the development of institutional links between the Federal Government and the interim regional administrations.
With UNSOM support, Puntland authorities initiated a capacity-building project in 2015 to establish unified, capable, accountable and rights-based security institutions, and to develop security links with the Federal Government. A Somali security and justice sector public expenditure review was undertaken by the Government, the World Bank and UNSOM.
UNSOM assisted the Federal Government in its first steps towards establishing a comprehensive weapons and ammunition management system, in accordance with international standards and sanctions obligations. Construction of armories and facilities for the safe storage of weapons and explosives continued, together with efforts to develop personnel capacity in record-keeping and physical management of weapons. The Federal Government received support in drafting their arms control report, submitted on 30 March 2015 to the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009).
International support for the Guulwade (Victory) Plan to develop the capacity of the Somali national army had been limited by mid-2015. An implementation team for the plan, comprising technical representatives from the Ministry of Defence, the Somali national army, AMISOM, UNSOM, the United Nations Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA), the European Union Training Mission, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America was established in May 2015 and was working on the execution of the plan.
Ongoing joint military operations by the Somali national army and AMISOM continued to create more territorial space for the Government to exercise its authority. By its resolution 2232 (2015), the Security Council endorsed the recommendations of the Joint African Union-United Nations Review Mission.
Many pressing challenges need addressing; not least the lack of a military medical system to treat and cater for its troops, lack of adequate equipment including uniforms, force enablers such as tanks and planes and most importantly, the lack of proper military camps to accommodate the troops. Many of Somalia’s vast military installations were either destroyed by the war or occupied by displaced persons.
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