EU trains army to fight in Somalia
The EU program to train an army to fight for Somalia's beleaguered transitional government involves 150 instructors from 14 EU countries at a cost of $6 million. It's the latest in a series of internationally funded efforts around East Africa.
Bihanga Training Camp, Uganda
It may be only his second day of military training, but Abdullahi Ibrahim Aden is already convinced that he can help bring peace to his war-ravaged nation, Somalia.Skip to next paragraph
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Clutching an AK-47 in a field two countries away from his homeland, Aden, a former street kid, refugee, and nurse, is one of the first recruits in an ambitious program run by the European Union (EU) to help train 2,000 soldiers for the fledgling Army of Somalia's fragile Transitional Federal Government, or TFG.
"Somali children, grandfathers, and grandmothers are dying in the streets," says Aden. "That is why I came to be a volunteer, to change what is happening in my country."
Involving 150 instructors from 14 EU countries at a cost of $6 million to European taxpayers, the program is the latest in a series of internationally funded training efforts around East Africa designed to bolster the beleaguered government and nudge Somalia closer to peace after almost two decades of conflict.
Money for logistical support is coming from the United States, which has reportedly already pumped millions of dollars into similar smaller training programs run by local militaries in Uganda and Djibouti over the past 18 months.
A complement to Ugandan training
Split into two six-month blocks, the program is designed to complement basic training conducted by the Ugandan Army and focuses on selecting officers to lead the government forces. Recruits are supposed to be screened by the government back in Somalia to ensure they come from a cross section of clans and will undergo lessons ranging from land-mine detection to human rights.
Human rights groups have previously accused the Somali Army of indiscriminately shelling civilian areas.
From logistics to language issues, the program faces a number of obstacles.
"Obviously, there is some work to be done. But we are ready for the job, and all the trainers here come from the best troops in Europe," says training coordinator Emmanuel Hotellier, from the French Foreign Legion. "We are working hard to develop some esprit de corps and loyalty to the transitional government amongst the recruits."
Somalia's Western-backed transitional government controls only a few square blocks of the capital, Mogadishu. If programs like this one fail, it could pave the way for Al Qaeda-linked Islamists to take full control of this strategically located country.