Families: AU must compensate us before troops leave Somalia

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MOGADISHU, Somalia - The African Union [AU] must compensate families who lost their loved ones in African Union Transition Mission in Somalia [ATMIS] troops operations, several contacts have told Voice of America's investigative programme known as the Dossier, just as the peacekeepers start drawdown process.

According to the Dossier, families whose loved ones were either killed or maimed by ATMIS troops now want the AU to immediately compensate them before the force leaves the country. ATMIS recorded over 70 cases where civilians have lost their lives, injured or had their properties damaged in incidents involving AU peacekeepers.

For instance, at Golweyn in August 10, 2021, ATMIS troops attached to the Ugandan contingent, executed seven farmers immediately after an al-Shabab ambush of their troops. An AU soldier was killed in the ambush and another was injured, the Investigative Dossier reports.

A few kilometers from the scene, the same AU forces rounded up farmers including Omar Hassan Warsame, who was the owner of the farm. The forces had claimed that the dead were Al-Shabaab members but evidence gathered indicated otherwise, leading to a national outcry.

After thorough check, the AU mission took full responsibility for the “unlawful acts of its personnel.” The victims were “productive people,” the statement said. Former head of mission Francisco Madeira admitted the lapse as he promised prosecution.

In a widely watched prosecution, the Uganda People's Defense Forces [UPDF] court martial sentenced two of the five soldiers behind the killing to death, three others got 39 years in prison terms each. Upon appeal, the death sentences were overturned and the soldiers were given long prison terms.

As a sign of goodwill, the Ugandan embassy gave $100,000 to turn families of the seven victims. The agreement described the payment as “expense” for the seven victims killed in Golweyn, Investigative Dossier adds. It also said the families have “unanimously forgiven” Uganda and will not ask for anything from the UPDF [Ugandan Peoples Defense Forces.”

However, the families insist that the payment was meant for funeral expenses only , adding that the African Union owes them compensation for the loss of their loved ones.

“We have received $100,000 termed as expenses, and not compensation,” Mohamed Abdi Moallim nephew of Warsame and spokesman for the families said. According to him, AU verbally told him that the families would be compensated.

Mohamed Hassan Mohamud, who us their lawyer, said the compensation matter needs “political intervention” from the Somali government to tell the AU and countries that sent the troops to compensate.

“If they [government] can’t do that they should give us legal aid so that we can pursue our case against the troops who violated international laws.” Families of other victims are pushing for compensation from the African Union.

At Garbaharey town in Gedo region, families of three people who were allegedly killed by Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF] in 2017, are pushing for compensation through Duale Ali Muse, who is their counsel. The Ethiopian forces killed the three pastoralists including a 77-year-old man shortly after an an-Shabab ambush of the peacekeepers, Muse alleges.

“We tried to make contact with the Ethiopian forces, it was not possible for us,” he said. “We came to Mogadishu in November last year, and until now we do not have any word from them…we want compensation for the three civilian men.”

ATMIS said the Garbaharey case is before the Amends Advisory Committee for consideration. Abdifatah Salad Mohamed who was 24 when died was one of two people killed in a road accident involving AU military vehicle.

The ATMIS team has started gradual withdrawal from Somalia , with the first batch of 2,000 soldiers from at least seven Forward Operating Bases handing over security responsibilities to the Somali National Army. It is anticipated that by December 2024, all peacekeepers would have left the country.

However, Somalia is seemingly seeking support from non-ATMIS troops from Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti, who are set to stay in the country for three months as they assist in the second phase of operations against Al-Shabaab. The Al-Shabaab group has lost significant territories within the country.

GAROWE ONLINE

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