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European Union in the Horn of Africa – the operations that need to be continued

RAFAŁ SMENTEK, CII Petersberg Series

source: http://www.consilium.europa.euMilitary missions are always described and shown by the media and the most fiercely debated by politicians. That is the reason why operation “Atalanta”, maritime military mission off the coast of Somalia is the only one which comes to our mind when we think about the European engagement in this region. Of course, EU NAVFOR Somalia is now probably the most important mission within the framework of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) but it is also only a part of a broader strategy. 

The EU Strategic Framework defines the Horn of Africa as the region consisting of several countries, belonging to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) organization, namely: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda. This area is extremely important for the European Union (EU) because of the geo-strategic and economic significance – the main trade routes between Europe and Asia passes through the Gulf of Aden. The close neighborhood of the Arabian Peninsula even increases the importance of this region. The presence of Islamic group Al Shabaab in Somalia, which most probably has connections with Al Kaida, poses a threat that Somalia will become a new Afghanistan, where terrorists could hide, train and operate. Another grave issue is piracy, which has a negative impact on the maritime trade and endangers the shipment in the region. The EU also wants to meet the humanitarian and developmental challenges and strengthen regional stability – issues which are essential for the reduction of migration out of the region. Many refugees, who live in diaspora communities in the EU (especially in the UK and the Netherlands) and form a lobby, have also influenced European policy makers to begin intervention, which now consists of three parts, out of which two are training missions.

source: http://maps-africa.blogspot.be/2012/05/horn-of-africa-map-pictures.html
source: http://maps-africa.blogspot.be/2012/05/horn-of-africa-map-pictures.html

EUCAP Nestor

EUCAP Nestor is a newly created operation. The Council approved the concept on the 12 December 2011 and on 16 July the mission was launched. As for now, it is planned until 2015. The first meeting between the representatives of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG), Puntland and the EU took place between 6 and 8 February 2013. The main task is to support regional maritime capacity building. Planned activities are:

  • To strengthen the Rule of Law sector in Somalia, with an initial focus on the regions of Puntland and Somaliland. In particular, the mission will support the development of coastal police force and judiciary.
  • To strengthen maritime capacity of Djibouti, Kenya and the Seychelles (will be extended to Tanzania).

To execute this task the EU has formed strategic partnership with the International Maritime Organisation, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the United Nations Development Programme.

EUTM Somalia

International cooperation also plays a key role in the EUTM Somalia, which is limited to the Somali state itself, but involves the United Nations, the United States, the African Union and Uganda as a host nation. The mission was launched in February 2010 in support of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1872 and is planned until 2015 (after an extension on 22 January 2013). The strategic objective of the mission is to contribute to the strengthening of the Somali Armed Forces through the military training. The future aspiration is to transform the EUTM graduates into 5th brigade which would provide a significant military capability under control of the TFG which represents Somalia at the international level and will help to extend its remit throughout the country.

Training takes place in Uganda in the Bihanga Training Camp (BTC) and consists of eight modules: Junior Officers Training, Communications, Combat Life Saver, Fighting in Built-Up Areas, Mine and Improvised Explosive Devices Awareness, NCO Basic Training, Infantry Section Leader and Train the Trainers. Such a wide program allows to build a well trained and fully operational units. So far in the framework of the EUTM Somalia over 3000 soldiers and officers have been trained. An additional challenge is to teach Somali recruits about their own country, because most of them are illiterate and derive knowledge only from their clan structures. Clanism is an important issue in Somalia and characterizes this country, especially after a long time of instability which increased the role of clans and local warlords. Training soldiers from different clans in the same facility (the BTC) has the potential to overcome this system and entail that EUTM graduates will look at their country as a single entity.

On 22 January 2013 the mission was refocused and will also consist in giving strategic advice to the Somali Ministry of Defence and to the Chief of Defence Forces, as well as in supporting the development of security sector. If security conditions allow this, the EUTM will gradually move from Bihanga to Somalia.


It is difficult to judge both missions so far. Firstly, because both operations have been functioning for not a long time (EUCAP begun this year and the EUTM has been functioning since 3 years). Secondly, because effects of the training missions can usually be seen after many years. Thirdly, because we must analyze them as a part of the broader strategy of the European Union in the Horn of Africa. What we can say now is that the EU is going in the right direction leading three different missions with strong connections between them and the other international and regional actors. EU NAVFOR protects the Gulf of Aden against piracy and EUCAP Nestor strengthens maritime capabilities of the neighborhood states but do not solve the problem of instability and possible terrorist threat. That is the reason why the EUTM Somalia was launched. Those soldiers who successfully completed training in Bihanga should become a significant part of the Somali Armed Forces and through the Train the Trainers Module some of them will teach new recruits, hopefully in Somalia.

As for the recommendations, the EU should continue to act in a current way, slowly and with patience, with military instruments used in final resort. Somali military, together with the troops of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), will be increasingly effective in the fight against Al Shabaab and has the potential to defeat them. That could take some time and the perspective of EUTM until 2015 seems to be too short in this context. This mission should be extended (and probably will be) because even after victory the Transnational Federal Government will need assistance in the creation of fully efficient army that will ensure security for the future.

After so many years of instability, the TFG will also need political and diplomatic aid to regulate relations with Puntland and Somaliland – territories that declared themselves as independent states – as well as with the neighborhood where so many Somali people live (4.6 mln in Ethiopia, 2.4 mln in Kenya ). These facts, along with the idea of pan-somalism, were the main causes of armed conflicts in the past . Clan structures are the next challenge. Because they are an important part of Somalis identity, international community should behave with caution in order to not aggravate divisions. All of these conditions can be ensured only if Somalia will become a stable state and the role of the EU is to help with this process. That is also a great chance for the EU to show its ability to lead successful long-term missions.

Rafal Andrzej Smentek – graduated in political science at the University of Warsaw and Erasmus scholarship at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. Involved in the so-called citizen journalism (Wiadomości24.pl, Stosunki Międzynarodowe). Two-time trainee in Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Poland. From March to July 2012 intern in German Bundestag in the office of Mr Eckhard Pols (CDU) in the framework of Internationales-Parlaments-Stipendium.

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