General Samora Muhammad Yunis, Chief of Staff of TPLF Forces
By its own private admission and in the opinion of foreign military experts - drastically needs to improve its effectiveness but is finding reform hard. Maintaining popular support is difficult at a time when Amisom contingents have become less careful about preserving civilian lives. The methods in use by the troops, rattled by the raids on their camps, recall the indiscriminate shooting and shelling Ethiopian troops carried out when they entered Mogadishu in 2007 and 2008. Al Shabaab is adept at turning the deaths of civilians at Amisom's hands to its advantage.
Perhaps the most telling indicator of Amisom's disarray is its failure to appoint a new force commander since the departure of the Kenyan commander from April until December 2015, Lieutenant-General Jonathan Kipkemoi Rono. He did not create a great impression among his fellow Amisom officiers. Last July he attracted criticism for saying, 'we will deal the final blow [to Al Shabaab] in the next few days' (AC Vol 56 No 15, An offering to Obama). He was often on sick leave and his many absences and poor ability to connect with the non-Kenyan contingents made him a butt of soldier humour.
Rono should have been replaced in January by an Ethiopian officer. yet the Ethiopian National Defence Forces chief of staff, General Samora Yunis, is putting several conditions on his nomination, some of which are unacceptable to other troop-contributing countries and the Somali government. The first is to station an additional 1,000 Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu, and the second that the force commander should have the right to relieve regional Amisom commanders of their commands even if they belong to other troop-contributing countries.
General Samora's undiplomatic demands have exacerbated divisions in Amisom. Addis has also angered Hassan Sheikh by subjecting him to a clumsy manoeuvre designed to make him more dependent on Ethiopia. It provided him with inflammatory intelligence meant to turn him against Kenya and make any repair of relations with Nairobi all but impossible. This would drive him into Addis' arms. But the intelligence proved to be completely false and Hassan Sheikh felt betrayed, said a source with knowledge of the episode.
In the town of Dhusamareb, the Ethiopian army sided with the Anti-Al-Shabaab Ahle Sunna wa Jama militia against the Galmudug regional administration, another setback to creating viable regional entities in the run-up to elections. Bringing Ethiopian troops back to Mogadishu in large numbers would not only bring back bad local memories but humiliate Hassan Sheikh's government.
Kenyan and Ugandan commanders are also unlikely to agree to General Samora's conditions. While the divisions continue, the individual national contingents remain their own masters with commitment only to share intelligence and to coordinate where possible. To try and get Western support in the arm-wrestling contest General Samora has once more announced that a new offensive to eradicate Al Shabaab will soon start in Juba. Observers suspect it will be more successful for its public relations value than in concrete results on the ground.