The African Union has appointed Mozambican, Francisco Caetano Jose Madeira head of AMISOM replacing Ambassador Maman Sambo Sidikou who has been heading the mission for the last one year.
Madeira, a career diplomat and anti-terrorism expert takes over the mission mandate a time AMISOM has made significant gains jointly with the Somali National Army in neutralising Al-Shabaab and recovering a number of towns and localities formerly under Al-Shabaab control.
Madeira served as AU Special Representative for Counter-Terrorism Cooperation and Director of the Algiers-based African Centre on the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT), a post he held concurrently with that of Special Envoy for the issue of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), from November 2011 to July 2014.
He has also variously served as special envoy on a number of peace missions in Africa such negotiator roles in Sao Tome and Principe, Arusha negotiations for Burundi, South Sudan and Comoros. Madeira also been a minister and member of parliament in Mozambique where he played a critical role in the truce between the government and then rebel faction RENAMO in 1992.
In a statement to the media, AMISOM has hailed Madeira’s appointment as key especially as Somalia prepares for elections in 2016.
“Given his experience in counter-terrorism, Ambassador Madeira is expected to give a new impetus to the campaign to neutralize al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups, building on the tremendous achievements made by AMISOM over the past few years, in particular with the recovery of many of the major cities and other strategic locations of south-central Somalia. He will also assist in the implementation of Vision 2016 developed by the Somali stakeholders,” read the statement in part.
Sidikou’s tenure has been marked by significant gains by AMISOM including the fall of key resource bases for Al-Shabaab such as the coastal town of Barawe and recently Bardhere among a number of other towns. However the attack of AMISOM bases for Uganda and Burundi this year which left a number of soldiers dead have marked some of his challenging moments including allegations of killings of civilians by AMISOM soldiers.
The AU chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has thanked Sidikou for his remarkable achievements in making Somalia more peaceful during his tenure and wished him well as he exits Mogadishu.
“The Chairperson of the Commission would like to express her sincere appreciation to Ambassador Sidikou for his leadership and commitment. Under his tenure, AMISOM, jointly with the Somali Security Forces, significantly expanded the territory under the control of the FGS, and played an important role in advancing the political process. She wishes him success in his future endeavours,” said AMISOM.
AMSIOM’s term in Somalia is set to come to a close in 2017 but questions still abound on the ability of the Somali National Army to take over the mantle and secure the country from Al-Shabaab which has been waging war on the government. An exit strategy could be part of Madeira’s assignment but more importantly ensuring sufficient security for the August 2016 polls.