It was reported today that Kenya plans to reduce its presence in the Somali port city of Kismayo in the country’s south. About two hundred Kenyan personnel will remain, but the bulk of the peacekeeping duties there will be taken over by forces from Burundi and Sierra Leon. All three countries are providers of forces to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
The decision to withdraw the troops comes in response to complaints from Somali authorities that they were hindering attempts to assert central government control. The ability of the central government to effectively assert its authority continues to be a serious issue. Currently the top third of the country consists of semi-autonomous regions of Puntland and Somliland, which have had a complicated relationship with central government authority. In 2011, warlords in the south declared another semi-autonomous region, Jubaland, with its Kismayo as its defacto capital. The nominally supportive of the central government, the warlords in control of Jubaland are backed by Kenya and there has been the suggestion that Jubaland is effectively a buffer state against the spillover of violence from the AMISOM campaign against the Al Shabaab militant group.
Semi-autonomous regions are not the only problems the United Nations-backed Somali government has been having with regards to asserting their authority. Today, the UN’s top envoy in Somalia voiced concern about rising tensions at a federal state-building conference in the city of Baidoa. The conference is intended to help the process of simply establishing a federal state in the area. Much of Somalia remains under the control of loosely aligned warlords with backing from various regional actors like Kenya and Ethiopia, and international entities, like the US Central Intelligence Agency. The US recently deployed military advisors to work on training the central government’s actual security forces. The US has also worked on training forces for deployment in support of AMISOM and has also launched targeted strikes against Al Shabaab leadership figures, including one just this week. Given all this, the UN has been pushing recently for a new and cohesive strategy to support Somali peace and security and the development of its institutions.