Addis Ababa – The European Unit Training Mission-Somalia (EUTM-S) Commander, Brigadier General Pietro Addis, when asked by AGI to talk about his mission in Somalia, only spoke of confidence and satisfaction. Those feelings are both for the EUTM mission and for his soldiers, whom he continuously urges to act with a serious and sacrifical spirit.
Addis’s mission in Somalia is a European Union training program with the aim to contribute to the reconstruction of the Ministry of Defense and of the Somali National Army. These two institutions are indeed fundamental in Somalia where there cannot be any real development and reconstruction without security.
His mission is all about building excellent relationships with his counterparts in Somalia. “Relations with local security forces are generally good – he says – even though one must be aware that EUTM is only one of the International Community’s actors operating in Somalia, specifically in Mogadishu, and it is therefore easy to imagine how difficult it is for them to interact with so many and diverse entities. What Commander Addis states is true, nowadays you can find in Mogadishu many International Organizations (United Nations, European Union, African Union ) and single nations (Usa, UK, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, in addition to the AMISOM’s Troop Contributing Countries), only to mention a few, “whose actions – Addis highlights – are not always well coordinated and totally disinterested”.
While interviewing him the words that he uses the most are: “respect for the counterparts”. “Our extreme sensitivity bears fruitfulness – he mentions with satisfaction – I’m sure our counterparts perceive us as a disinterested support, honest and free from hidden agendas. Therefore, we place ourselves as a partner dedicated to proposing a different approach to military issues without upsetting their national identity and without pretending to change their traditions and their culture.” The fact that the Companies he trains at the General Dhagabadan Training Camp (GDTC) sing the national Somali anthem daily is quite the demonstration of such open attitude.
Soldiers carrying out the activities under the command of General Addis in Mogadishu belong to eleven Member States and to a Third State. The mission, in addition to its staff, is organized on three fundamental components: the Advisory team, under the command of an Italian Colonel, the Training team, under the command of a Spanish Colonel and the security component, led by an Italian captain.
The training team performs its functions at the GDTC, while the advisory team at the Ministry of Defense and at the headquarter of the Somali Armed Forces. Their protection, both during their movements in town and during their various activities in structures scattered throughout the city, is ensured by the security component of the mission.
During this chunk of the mission, in a city steadily subject to Al-Shabab’s terrorist attacks, soldiers face various risks that General Addis calls “unquantifiable”. He highlights that “those are risks that are mitigated by many factors: individual training, meticulous work on movement’s planning, study of the itineraries and knowledge of contingency plans to be applied without hesitation when certain situations occur.”
The enemy that Addis and his soldiers fight every day with the strong belief of being there to play “a fundamental and delicate role in the reconstruction process of this unfortunate nation (General Addis)” is Al-Shabaab.
Al Shabaab, born from the ashes of the deceased Unions of the Islamic Courts, had settled in Mogadishu around 2006. It was expelled later by the forces of AMISOM, the African Union Mission to Somalia, a peacekeeping mission operated by the AU with approval by the UN, and driven mainly in the southern part of the nation, is now considered a terrorist organization that has found its place in the Somali degraded environment and in the void left by the institutions.
This movement, as a characterizing element of its actions, has imposed in the territories it controls, the full application of the Sharia. This considerably limits not only the freedom of the Somali citizens living in these areas but also, in fact, their human rights.
“Al Shabaab – Commander Addis deems – represents a brake to the country’s development”. He believes it is the real obstacle to overcome as a precondition to gain a Country able to rule itself and to generate, through its own natural resources, the funds it needs to finance serious and responsible institutions. Saying responsible Addis means structures that can be able, in the future, to support the population itself, often plagued by natural disasters such as famine and the very severe drought that is also characterizing this period. “In this process, of course, – Addis concludes – Somalia will not be left alone and will not be abandoned: the International Community has reaffirmed, even during the security and development conference of last December, its commitment to assist the fragile Somali institutions in this difficult path of growth”.