The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia(ATMIS) has concluded the first phase of the troop drawdown after handing over the last two Forward Operating Bases (FOBs), Aljazeera 1 in Mogadishu and Gherille in Jubaland State.
In collaboration with the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) and the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), a total of seven FOBs were earmarked for handover to enable the drawdown of 2000 troops. All the seven FOBs, including -Xaaji Cali, Miirtugo, Cadale, Albao, Gherille, Aljazeera 1 and Marka Ayub, have been handed over to Somali Security Forces (SSF).
The final two to be handed over, Gherille FOB in the Gedo region of Jubaland State was under the responsibility of ATMIS Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) while Aljazeera1 located on the outskirts of the capital, Mogadishu, was under the responsibility of ATMIS Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).
In Gherille, near the Kenya-Somalia border, the ATMIS commander of the FOB, Major Terence Shitanda Soita, handed over the facility to the Jubaland Security Forces(JSF) commander of the FOB, Lieutenant Colonel Salan Afey, at an event witnessed by senior ATMIS and Somali National Army (SNA) officials.
The Commander of ATMIS Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) Battalion based in Burahache, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Kamau Ng’ang’a, described the handover as historic and lauded the SSF for their cooperation. He pledged continued support and collaboration.
“We will still continue to work closely with the incoming commander and his team to support them to establish themselves.” Ng’ang’a said.
The Deputy Commander of Jubaland Security Forces in the Gedo region, Lieutenant Colonel Noor Abdi Hussein, commended ATMIS KDF troops for their continued contributions to the ongoing efforts to restore security and stability in Somalia.
“One of the biggest sacrifices someone can make is to shed his blood for you and that is exactly what KDF have done for Somalia. Kenya is like our right hand. They have been very supportive.” Noor noted.
The former ATMIS KDF Gherille FOB commander Shitanda said the FOB had significantly contributed to the safety and security in the region by facilitating operations against the Al-Shabaab and other armed groups.
“This FOB was strategic to conducting offensives and joint operations against Al-Shabaab and other armed groups. Together with our brothers, we have done mentorship programmes and we are confident that the SSF have acquired the needed capacity to carry on with the operations.” Shitanda observed.
The ATMIS military Chief Operations Officer, Col. Milton Katarinyeba, who was also in Gherille for the handover, appealed to the Jubaland Security Forces to remain vigilant and collaborate with Federal government forces to ensure the safety of the local population.
At the Al-Jazeera 1 Training camp, the ATMIS Uganda contingent commander, Brigadier General Peter Omola, handed over the FOB to Col. Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, the Advisor to the SNA Chief of Defence Forces (CDF).