By John Agaba
The European Union council has extended the mandate of the EU training mission in Somalia (EUTM Somalia) to a further two years.
The previous and second mandate was due to end this February.
This means that the mission will continue training Somali soldiers with the hope that they can ultimately take over security responsibilities in the war-torn country.
The new mandate ends on March 31, 2015 and is estimated to cost Euro11.6m (about sh41b).
Unlike with the previous mandates, in a statement handed to journalists at Forest Cottages in Bukoto, Kampala, the new mandate requires the mission to also provide political and strategic advice to the Somali ministry of defence and chief of defence forces.
Provision of specialised military training and mentoring in the training domain also features in the new mandate.
It will also see the mission gradually move its training activities from Bihanga (western Uganda) to Somalia, depending on security conditions.
The European Ambassador to Uganda, Roberto Ridolfi, said the shift laid the foundation of a Somali-owned military training system, with basic and specialised military training taking place in Somalia.
“It is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach for a stable, democratic, and prosperous Somalia,” he said.
As a result of the new mandate, Col. Michael Beary, who has been commander of the mission for the past 17 months, has had to hand over his assignments to Brigadier Gen. Gerald Aherne from Ireland.
Beary said since the EUTM Somalia operations started in February 2010, the mission has trained about 3,000 Somali troops in Bihanga.
“On Friday we are passing out the fourth intake of more 551 young Somali men and women,’’ said Beary.
“They arrived in Uganda last July. They are now ready to return home in Somalia as part of the Somali National Armed Forces.”
The head of delegation of the European Union Delegation to Uganda H.E Robert Ridolfi , former European Union Training Mission in Somalia Colonel Micheal Beary together with the Commander Land Forces Lt General Katumba Wamala among other diginitaries witness the EUTM Somalia Commander Handover Ceremony on the 28th January 2013 at the main headquaters in Kampala. PHOTO/Abu Mwesigwa
The Commander of Land Forces Lt General Katumba Wamala (middle) chats with the former European Union Training Mission in Somalia Colonel Micheal Beary while the incoming commander, Brigadier General Gerald Aherne (left) walks away after the EUTM Somalia Commander handover ceremony. PHOTO/Abu Mwesigwa