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Africa

Atta-Asamoah: "20 German soldiers are significant"

Germany’s Bundeswehr is currently involved in military mission in seven African countries. Somalia is about to become the eighth, after Germany’s cabinet approved the deployment of up to 20 military instructors.

The instructors are to participate in an EU training mission in Somalia's capital Mogadishu. Their deployment is being seen as part of a more active foreign policy role now being pursued by Germany under Chancellor Angela Merkel.

DW: 20 Soldiers from a country as powerful, influential and as wealthy as Germany. From an analyst's perspective isn't that being too cautious?

Andrews Atta-Asamoah: You are right. They are being too cautious, particularly if you look at the fact that they were very skeptical with initial move into Mogadishu. But if you look at the mandate, the role that they will be contributing to, then you can also appreciate the fact that 20 [soldiers] are quite significant. This is because they will be adding to an EU training mission team and therefore they will be basically instructors in various fields. In that sense 20 [soldiers] will be quite useful, it would not be too much and it wouldn't be too little, because their role will be instructing and capacity building.

What specific areas of combat will the German military instructors be concentrating on?

It is very difficult to really tell. I think the EU training mission is generally involved in building capacity for the Somali armed forces. So they have been training a good number of non-commissioned officers, junior officers and specialists and trainers in several fields. I think as part of that now with their move to Mogadishu, they are also providing some support in the area of advice, mentoring activities in several areas that the Somali army needs. So together with the [UN backed AU force], AMISOM, they will be trying to train a group of Somali army officers in various specializations as well as equipping them to be able to take the battle to al-Shabab. So it will be very difficult within the group to tell what the German component will be doing. But within a broader ambit of the EU training mission that is where one can understand their role.

Could Germany's and EU's involvement in Somalia tilt the balance in favor of Somalia and AU forces?

Yes, I think the biggest role is in the sustainability of the new leadership experience in Somalia. We know that no matter how long AMISOM stays there and no matter how long the international community contributes to stabilization to Somalia, the actual work of sustainability will have to rest with people of Somalia. So training a group of people, an army that will represent Somalia and that will be able to fight effectively alongside AMISOM, is significant, because in the long term they will guarantee the success of the peace mission that is taking place in Somalia.

Training, as you say, is important. But what about resources, do you expect the German government, as well as the EU, to help in other areas, for example, military equipment?

I think that would be incredibly useful. If you look at the AMISOM at the moment, as well as the Somali army, AMISOM particularly is lacking a great deal of what they call force multipliers. Once you train the Somali army, you will need to equip them to be able to really deliver in the area that they ought to work. I think that equipping them as a second process to training them, it would be very laudable, because without equipping them the training might not be as useful as if they are equipped. So it would be very important for the EU, I know the EU supports the African Union mission in diverse ways, but in terms of equipping them that would be very useful. With well equipped soldiers you can deliver more efficiently, much more than many African soldiers on the ground.

Andrews Atta-Asamoah is a senior researcher in the Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis Division at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria.

Interview: Chrispin Mwakideu

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