African Union Peacekeepers Remain Vigilant to Safeguard Strategic Mogadishu Seaport

The African Union peacekeepers in Somalia are determined to maintain security at the vital Mogadishu seaport, even as they transfer more responsibilities to the Somali National Army. The port plays a crucial role in securing the capital and disrupting supplies that sustain Al-Shabaab’s warfare efforts.

Various interests converge at the Mogadishu seaport: Turkey seeks economic benefits, the peacekeepers prioritize security, Somalis rely on it for business, and Al-Shabaab aims to fund its operations.

According to officers of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (Atmis), the seaport is a strategic asset for both the Somali government and the AU force. It serves as the main supply route and an alternative exit point in case of emergencies, making it a prime target for Al-Shabaab.

Recent port reports indicate improved traffic, with 10 to 15 vessels docking per week compared to the previous average of three. Lt. Marcelino Bukenya Muwonge, Intelligence Officer for the Seaport Forward Operating Base (FOB), emphasized the ongoing threat posed by Al-Shabaab: “The seaport remains one of the main targets of Al Shabaab within Mogadishu, therefore our forces remain vigilant and combat-ready to avert any attack.”

The port, located 4km east of Mogadishu airport, serves as a vital commercial hub. It is the only FOB maintained by Atmis within the city.

Since 2014, the Turkish company Albayrak Group has operated and managed the port under a revenue-sharing agreement with the Somali Treasury. Despite recent Turkish-Somali agreements, including defense and economic pacts, the security role of the AU peacekeepers remains unchanged.

Maj. Peter Mugisa, spokesperson of the Ugandan contingent of Atmis, emphasized, “Turks took over the port; they are collecting revenue and offer naval security support, but that does not mean our role to secure the facility is diminished.”

The complex security setup at the port involves Somali Police Force, Atmis, Turkish, and Somali intelligence personnel. While Somali forces manage security at the main entry points, Atmis oversees control points and towers.

Capt. Aggrey Kalanzi, Seaport FOB Commander, highlighted challenges arising from language barriers and divergent interests among the involved parties.

Al-Shabaab has attempted to exploit these challenges. In September 17, 2023, Atmis seized three containers carrying Shabaab military equipment, including drones, sniper rifle scopes, guns, night vision gadgets, and military uniforms, originating from Yemen.

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