Without basic housing and equipment for Somalia’s soldiers, the EU’s military training mission in that country will fail to achieve its long-term objectives, says the mission’s out-going commander.
Some trainees are not even equipped with proper uniforms, he added.
“I’ve been satisfied with the results [of the mission] so far but they are not enough,” Brigadier General Massimo Mingiardi, commander of EU Training Mission Somalia (EUTM-Somalia) told reporters in Brussels on 20 February.
“It would be very naïve to say we could have solved the problems of Somalia in the last year – not after 22 years of civil war. We are on a good track but the West needs [to make] a long-term commitment. Otherwise, we’ll commit the same mistakes made in other parts of Africa or the Middle East.”
Appointed a year ago as the mission’s fourth commander, Brig Gen Mingiardi steps down on 8 March, to be succeeded by another Italian general.
EUTM-Somalia was launched in April 2010 and its current mandate of 21 months runs until December 2016. Its core training team and support staff of 150 members is drawn from 11 EU countries (Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, the UK) and Serbia.
Brig Gen Mingiardi said one of the mission’s perennial problems has been to train soldiers who are inadequately equipped.
“To provide training without the basic equipment doesn’t work. We have to do more,” he said.
“For example, during the last course we administered to 100 soldiers; not one of them received a uniform. They attended the course in civilian clothes – and flip-flops! If we want to see any improvement, the only path before us is to provide them the equipment they need for training as well. We’re also trying to help the Somalis rebuild their MoD [Ministry of Defence], but without more money I don’t think we can achieve the desired results. One of my first priorities would be to re-build barracks, which would enable the soldiers to better control the armoury.”
He added that the mission hopes to receive in 2015 around EUR2.5 million (USD2.8 million) from the EU’s funds for development and humanitarian aid, which could be used for the soldiers’ non-lethal supplies such as uniforms and housing.
“It is very important to improve the basic living standard of the soldiers,” he said.
By implementing a new UN-based biometric registration system for Somalia’s professional soldiers, EUTM-Somalia has helped the MoD avoid wasting its money. Noting that there is no identification system for Somali citizens, either at national or municipal level, and thus no official ID documents, Brig Gen Mingiardi said the new system means “there will no longer be any way to cheat on salaries received. We’ll know exactly who the person in front of us is, and we can distribute salaries correctly”.