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for editorial broadcast, print, online and radio use. It is not to be sold on and is restricted for other purposes. All enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org CREDIT REQUIRED: AU/UN IST LANGUAGE: ENGLISH DATELINE: 15 DECEMBER 2013, MOGADISHU
Question: How would you describe your time as the leader of the African Union forces here in Somalia? Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti: First of all when I came to Somalia, I found that the war was within the city. We had just moved out of some parts of the city, the front line was at the university and then on the Western side, it was in the areas of Dayniile, that’s where our forces were able to move with in the area. Then secondly, it was my first time to deal with a multi-national force, of course with troops of different doctrines and it always brings in a very big challenge on where to begin from. But all the same, we started off, staggered forward, reinforced by resolution 2036 of the UN, increasing the forces of AMISOM from 12,000 to 17,000. We were able to expand now into all the four sectors of operation area. Question: At the time you took over as Force Commander, the Alshabab had been pushed out of Mogadishu and you took on the role of what most would consider the not so conventional kind of war fare when fighting Alshabab. How did that affect your operations and how you actually tackled Alshabab? Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti: By that time they were still with in the vicinity of the city, they were in the buildup area. Alshabab shifted to asymmetric kind of war fare after a decisive battle at Dayniile. Otherwise before they were still intact, they had not shifted tactics yet. Question: Did that affect how you operated as conventional army? Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti: With the experience I have, it was not really something new, it was just a change of environment. Question: Let’s talk about the successes, what would you say are some of your achievements during your period here? Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti: A few areas I could may be point out. We called in for the elders, they came in and elected members who were able to look at the Constitution. They elected Members of Parliament, who then elected the President. So we made the situation conducive for the political arena to take root. There was a lot of stimulation on the side of the economy, the airport was receiving more than 20 aircrafts, as per
now that’s per day, the seaport bringing in 20 to 30 ships docking depending on
the state of the sea, we have so many people returning from the diaspora. You can the city has already changed its shape, there was nobody here before but now; there are buildings, shops are mushrooming, restaurants as you move around plus the traffic jam.
Question: AMISOM has been a victim of its own success in that they were able to
push Alshabab quickly but too quick in that they run out of troops to handle the territory that they captured and over the past 6 month or so, there has been a halt in the operations and that’s the reason Alshabab has been able to operate and we have seen an increase in the number of attacks in terms IEDS, suicide bombings and the recent attack in Nairobi Kenya, at the Westgate mall. Would you say the fact that you have been stretched as a force has facilitated Alshabab in its operations? Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti: I don’t think so and what I should be able to tell is that in the military there are stages of war. There is the start where you begin with the offensive, reaching somewhere, you should consolidate the achievements first before you proceed to the next objective. Where we are now is the consolidation phase. You know that during the past 21 years, there has been a vacuum in the areas where Alshabab was controlling and there were no administrative structures. So we are finding a very big problem, you can’t be able to move forward before settling up the area you have already captured. So you need to organize the home, clean it properly, then go to the next objective. And those are the stages were moving on, so it doesn’t mean that Alshabab has gained ground, no, Alshabab is on the run and as soon as we begin the next offensive, the stories that they are able to operate will not be there anymore. Question: Recently we saw that the United Nations Security Council approved additional troop numbers, about 3 battalions for the force on the ground to help in the fight against Shabab. Do you feel that those numbers are enough, and also the fact that they only have a 2 year mandate to start with; is that enough to get the job finished and get it done properly? Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti: The number of troops was increased from 12, 000 to 17,000 with some force enablers and multipliers. Despite lack of force multipliers and enablers, we were able to open up, we were able to go to these four sectors, we were to deploy and were able to recover larger areas from Alshabab. So with the approval of more forces on the ground, we shall be able to at least get key areas, where by we know that the taps which provide Alshabab with finances will be closed. So the taps will be dry and no more Alshabab financing the war, or getting replenished. So increasing the troops plus the reinforcement of more force enablers in the area will make sure that we shall be able to finish our work.
Question: One of your major partners in your operation in Somalia is the SNA (Somali National Army) forces; you have had to work with then and go on operations with them. Where do they stand right now as an operational unit, as a force and if they do require more help, what is it that they need? Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti: In the army, training is a process which has got its own stages. We started the training with a battalion, up to now we have trained up to two brigades from the army, two brigades which are already at the front line with AMISOM forces. One brigade was given to Burundi, another was given to Uganda to mentor them. And then also with logistical support from the US government and stipends from partner states; we are able to make sure that this force is becoming used to the role they are supposed to play on the ground and our aim set is that at the end of the day they should be able to take over especially now with the UN having lifted the arms embargo, they will be well polished on the side of weaponry. Question: You now pass the baton as Force Commander to a new Force commander from Burundi, what would you say from your experience would be some of the challenges that lie ahead for him? Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti: The team which has already come in is well briefed, we have taken time with them, I don’t think they will get a lot of obstacles. When I look at the officers, the two deputies of operations and support, there are all officers with enough experience and am optimistic that they will be able to finish the remaining part of the campaign. Question: Overall as AMISOM, as you go back and looking back at your years here, what would you say as some of the things that they could do much better to make sure that this mission is accomplished. Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti: Lessons learnt in the area, is that when you come to the field, what you expect may not be what you find unless you go to the ground to learn more. I have learnt a lot of things, I have interacted with a lot of people, I have gone through a lot of problems here like land dynamics which I never expected earlier before, a lot of experience and I have gone with a lot of friends I have met in the field. Question: AMISOM as a structure, do you feel that’s the way forward for a lot of African countries in conflict. Should they use the AMISOM model as a way of solving their crises and also tackling extremism? Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti: I think the way forward is the AMISOM style of operation. It’s not a peace keeping, it’s a robust kind of operation. You find that at the end of the day, after leveling the ground, the peace keeping comes in. So I think the AMISOM model should be really employed in solving the conflicts in the
region. Am already seeing that Somalia is returning to its glory, this is evidence on the ground that you can’t deny, the whole world is already recognizing Somalia as a state, so with the support, I don’t think there will be any backsliding. Thank you. End.
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