The UN and African Union (AU) envoys in Somalia on Friday began security assessment visits across the Horn of Africa nation ahead of the troops exit in 2018.
The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia Francisco Madeira and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Michael Keating joined a delegation to Barawe, a strategic port city situated in the Lower Shabelle region on Thursday.
The delegation, led by Prime Minister Hassan Khaire, who met with elders and members of the public, discussed the possibility of handing over the security of Barawe to the Somali security forces.
Barawe is currently under the protection of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), troops.
“The visit took place as deliberations on the draw-down of AU troops from key towns in south central Somalia continue, between the government, the Somali security forces and AMISOM,” the AU mission said in a statement issued in Mogadishu.
The pan-African troops are expected to relinquish the security of the key towns, to the Somali forces, through a conditions-based transition plan, to allow them to take the lead responsibility as part of the planed exit.
“For AMISOM to be able to be more effective in this area, there is need for convergence of vision and support by the partners and the Somalis themselves, so that together we can degrade and destroy Al-Shabaab,” Madeira said.
During the visit, Keating said the Somali security forces must be strengthened to enable the country take charge of its own security responsibilities.
“This (visit) is consistent with the National Security Architecture, with the National Defence Strategy as well as with the conditions-based transition plan whereby over a number of years, Somalis assume a lead role,” Keating said.
AMISOM announced on Nov. 7 that some 1,000 soldiers will be withdrawn from Somalia by Dec. 31 this year in line with the AU and UN Security Council resolutions.
It said as part of the military drawdown, the pan African body will deploy an additional 500 police officers who will strengthen training and mentoring for Somali police.
AMISOM said it will reduce its troops by 1,000 by December, followed by further cuts next year, an exercise expected to end by 2020 as part of its exit strategy.