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AU forces suspend operations at Halane Base for 30 days amid Covid-19 scare

By Staff Reporter , GAROWE ONLINE
In a statement issued on Saturday, the mission announced the restrictions, which effectively grounded activities from Sunday.

MOGADISHU, Somalia - The African Union Mission in Somalia [AMISOM] has suspended activities within Halane Base Camp in Mogadishu, officials confirmed, in a swift response to enhancing safety measures to curb possible spread of Coronavirus.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the mission announced the restrictions, which effectively grounded activities from Sunday, and the situation is expected to last at least for the next one month.

The heavily fortified facility plays host to headquarters of several diplomatic missions including the UN, US embassy and other accredited humanitarian organization in Somalia.

Noting the "inconvenience" the move caused to the organizations, AMISOM said the tough restrictions which limits access to the facility are necessary due to rapid spread of COVID-19 across the world.

"Taking into consideration the need to curb the spread of COVID-19, AMISOM has enhanced restricted access to Halane Base camp and movements within the camp for 30 days," read the statement, adding, "the measures subject to review if need be".

All the employees within the organizations in Halane Base Camp depend on security offered by the AU Forces, who were first deployed in Mogadishu in 2011 in an effort to flush out Al-Shabaab militants.

Implementation entails "suspension of all construction work. Movement of supply of vehicles and business activities such as shops at Marine" within the Base Camp, AMISOM added.

The tough restrictions, which have since been effected, comes barely a fortnight after suspected Al-Shabaab militants hit the base with five mortar shells, although only minimal destruction of the properties was reported.

But despite grounding vital activities, essential service providers will be allowed to the facility "on case by case basis and under very specific conditions" according to the officials in charge of the base.

So controversial at times due to allied domestic affairs between AU forces and the surrounding community, the soldiers have however, managed to keep Somalia capital, Mogadishu safe compared to previous years.

For now, there are close to 22,000 troops serving in the mission under Ethiopian Lt. General Tigabu Yilma, and it's projected that by next year, the soldiers would have officially departed from the Horn of Africa nation.

To bridge a possible security gap, the forces are training Somali National Army [SNA] who are expected to officially take over once the last AMISOM battalion leaves Somalia.

Despite suffering casualties throughout the mission, AMISOM troops have managed to liberate a host of towns from Al-Shabaab, with the latest being Janaale town in Lower Shebelle, which saw over 140 militants killed.

Some of the countries which contributed to AMISOM include Kenya, Ethiopia, Burundi, Ugandan, which account for almost 95 per cent of the forces battling Al-Shabaab in Somalia.

In a statement last week, Al-Shabaab identified AMISOM as "true enemy of Somalia" after conclusion of a five-day conference that was held in an unidentified location.

The directive comes after FGS suspended all flights and learning as three people tested positive for COVID-19. Also, Puntland state announced a dusk-to-dawn curfew on Sunday in reference to the pandemic.

So far, the disease has claimed 26,000 lives globally from a total of 650,000 who have been infected. But close to 140,000 people have recovered. It was first reported in China.


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