Somalia has more than 20,000 pro-government fighters operating in the five federal member states.
The statistic is part of the key findings contained in the Operational Readiness Assessment (ORA) report handed over to the federal Minister of Internal Security, Mohamed Abukar Islow, by the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia, Ambassador Francisco Madeira.
According to the report, the fighters who are members of various regional forces or clan-based militias, have played a major role in fight against Al-Shabaab and other armed opposition groups in the Federal Member States.
In places like South West and Jubbaland States, the 60-page document details that the forces have fought alongside the Somali National Army (SNA) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops to dislodge Al-Shabaab in various regions and protect communities.
“What we now need is to see how best we can use the regional forces in the implementation of the Somalia Transition Plan,” Ambassador Madeira said at meeting held in the Somali capital, today.
The SRCC noted it was important that the withdrawal of AMISOM troops, as authorized by the UN Security Council, is done in a manner that does not compromise the gains already made in the country.
“The implementation of the transition plan is strongly linked to the need to gradually handover security responsibility to the Somali National Security Forces in a way that protects the gains made in securing the country,” Ambassador Madeira noted.
The report is based on an ORA exercise conducted in the federal member states of Jubbaland, South West, Galmudug and Puntland between March 2018 and January 2019.
The exercise sought to establish, among others, the number of fighters in each of the states, their level of training, remuneration and capability.
Though ORA was not conducted in HirShabelle State, the federal member state like others, also boasts of a pro-government regional force.
Mr. Islow, who received the report on behalf of the federal government, described ORA exercise as crucial in the implementation of the transition plan.
“The findings will help us know their (regional forces) demography, composition, training needs and equipment owned,” observed the Minister, adding that the information will also help in integrating the fighters into the Somali National Security Forces as required under the Somalia Transition Plan.
According to the report, Galmudug has the highest number of regional fighters, followed by Jubbaland, Puntland, South West and HirShabelle.
The document observes that most fighters have basic military training, however they were poorly housed and lacked equipment and administrative structures.
The exercise also found that regional forces report to state ministers of internal security, lack uniform and are occasionally paid by their regional governments.
In a meeting held in December 2017, the Somalia National Security Council resolved to recognize the regional forces and federal government offered to support them in view of their role in fighting Al-Shabaab.