MOGADISHU– Britain has cautioned against premature withdrawal of African Union troops from Somalia, saying such a move could be detrimental to the stability of the Horn of African nation.
Harriett Baldwin, visiting British minister for Africa, instead called for a conditions-based, gradual withdrawal of the troops, based on the strength of the Somali security forces.
“As you know, the UK has been consistent in saying that in terms of transition to both the Somali National Army and the Somali Police; that this needs to be done on a condition basis, rather than on an artificial time table,” Baldwin said. according to a statement issued by the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on Sunday.
The British minister, who arrived in Mogadishu on Saturday, praised troops-contributing countries for the work that they do within AMISOM.
She said Britain will continue rallying the wider international community to provide consistent funding to AMISOM.
The AU mission has developed a conditions-based transition plan to transfer the national security responsibility from the AU troops to the Somali security forces, guided by the rule of law and respect for human rights.
In 2017, the United Nations Security Council authorized a gradual troops reduction amid transition of security responsibility to Somali National Security Forces.
The AU mission says it has already withdrawn 1,000 troops and more withdrawals are expected in 2019.
According to the AU mission, talks between Baldwin and Francisco Madeira, special representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, focused on current developments on the security front, the transition and the prevailing political situation in Somalia.
The visit came after Britain announced additional funding to the AU Mission in Somalia to combat terrorism.
According to the AMISOM statement, Madeira expressed gratitude at the support the AMISOM has received from the British government, “not only in terms of training; in terms of military support; particularly in the ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance).”
Baldwin’s visit to Somalia came after a three-nation tour of Africa by British Prime Minister Theresa May last August, when she announced a new package of funding to AMISOM worth 7 million pounds (about 9.19 million U.S. dollars) to fight terrorism.