A UN-backed peacekeeping mission in Somalia, which faces attacks by an Al-Qaeda affiliate, received unanimous Security Council backing Tuesday until July 31.
The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), with about 21,600 troops, operates with the approval of the UN and relies on international funding.
By extending Amisom’s mandate to the end of July, the United Nations Security Council allowed for a review of recommendations expected in a “joint assessment” report on Somalia to be presented by June 15.
In its resolution, the Security Council recalled that it authorized the African Union to reduce Amisom to roughly 20,600 personnel by October 30, after 1,000 troops were pulled out last year.
There are plans for a full withdrawal of foreign troops by December 2020, but heads of state and ministers from the main troop contributors — including Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda — in March warned the timeframe for the drawdown was “not realistic and would lead to a reversal of the gains made by Amisom.”
The mission was deployed in 2007 to defend the internationally-backed government against attacks by the Shabaab, a Somali-led Al-Qaeda affiliate.
Somalia is slowly gaining its foothold as the forces liberate most regions and citizens.
United Nations agencies operating in Somalia have teamed up to curb what they have called “unsustainable trade, production and use of charcoal in Somalia.” Charcoal trade is one of the main cash-streams for the Al-shabaab militants.
The agencies have opened a two-day conference in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in the wake of a recent resurgence in charcoal trade, which had dropped in 2015 and 2016.
The Al-Shabaab have been blamed for facilitating illegal charcoal trade and they export it to some gulf countries via the Jubbaland state.
The Conference which is supported by the UN Development Programme, the UN Environment agency and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization also brings together environmentalists, diplomats and academics as well as officials from the Federal Government of Somalia.
They are meeting to discuss ways of curbing the charcoal trade and its impact on Somalia’s fragile environment. Somalia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mahdi Mohamed Guled, has thanked the international community for helping the country against the vice.
Mr Guled noted that the Somali government had lobbied the United Nations to impose a ban on the charcoal trade in 2012 to preserve the environment and also eliminate a vital source of funding for armed groups.
“The Federal Government of Somalia is committed to reducing the charcoal consumption by identifying sustainable sources of energy to reverse the impending threat against Somalia’s fragile eco-systems,” Mr. Guled said.
Illegal charcoal trade continues to fund insecurity and conflict. It is estimated that Al-Shabaab obtains $10 million every year through levies it imposes on the charcoal trade in areas under its control.
The officials argue that besides fueling the militants’ capacity, the illegal trade contributes to frequent drought cycles, flooding, the loss of livelihoods and an increase in food insecurity.
The Deputy Prime Minister said that there is a need to develop alternative energy systems to strengthen the ban on the charcoal trade in Somalia. “We have natural, God-given solar energy, we also have lots of wind which can generate energy for cooking and other uses, and also gas which is cheaper to utilize,” Mr Guled added.
According to the UN, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman are major markets for Somali charcoal exports. The world body says that implementation of the 2012 ban has been poorly enforced.
Source: Daily Monitor