Death toll of Amisom troops in Somalia since 2009 could exceed 1,100 – Study

Amisom troops in Somalia. PHOTO | FILE



The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) may have suffered at least 1,100 fatalities since 2009, according to information the force shared with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) — the world’s leading tracker of defence and military affairs.

Paul Williams, a professor of international affairs at George Washington University, said in a study released recently that Sipri regards the figure as “a conservative, minimum estimate.” Prof Williams said he gathered the information from disclosures by Amisom to Sipri, which show that 69 of its troops were killed last year as a result of hostile action.

The African Union said this figure did not include deaths from causes such as illness or accidents. The death toll, as reported to the Sweden-based researchers, ranged from a high of 384 personnel in 2012 to a low of 94 in 2011.

Prof Williams added that Amisom’s report of fatalities also does not include Kenyans killed in the course of Operation Linda Nchi, which the country carried out unilaterally in Somalia in 2011 and 2012.

It also does not include Ethiopian soldiers and police who died between late 2011 and early 2014, when the country’s army was fighting in Somalia outside the African Union’s aegis.

Amisom has also not given Sipri a count of deaths during its first two years of operation.

Amisom was launched in 2007 when a contingent of 1,600 Ugandan troops took up positions in Mogadishu. The force currently numbers more than 22,000 soldiers and police.

Despite these omissions, Prof Williams described Sipri’s calculation as “the best publicly available figures on Amisom’s fatalities.”

In his own private discussions with Amisom officials, Prof Williams gathered statistics showing that 110 Ugandans and 95 Burundians died in Somalia between March 2007 and February 2011.

Additional information he culled from Amisom’s records suggests that the force suffered 439 fatalities between August 2009 and September 2012. Other sources have put the number of Amisom deaths at roughly three times the more than 1,100 tallied by Sipri.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said in 2013, that “up to 3,000 Amisom soldiers” had been killed since the start of the African Union’s intervention in 2007. But Mr Eliasson offered no evidence for his claim, which was subsequently retracted by the UN.

And Prof Williams cautions, “The figures gleaned from my own research are also far from comprehensive and suffer from several limitations.”

It is impossible to pinpoint how many Amisom personnel have died in Somalia because the countries contributing troops refuse to reveal their losses, Prof Williams said. He added that he knows of no reliable estimate of the number of Shabaab militants who have died.

While insisting it does not keep its own comprehensive tally, Amisom says it is up to the troop-sending governments of Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Uganda to release information about their respective losses.

Because that data is being withheld, Amisom’s fallen fighters have not had their sacrifices properly honoured, Prof Williams said.

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