Armed Forces Minister visits East Africa to coordinate security support for Somalia
The Armed Forces Minister has visited key defence partners in East Africa to discuss joint efforts to promote regional stability and build security in Somalia. James Heappey visited Somalia, where the UK is working with allies from across East Africa to help the Somali state take over responsibility for security from international forces. The UK provides pre-deployment training for African Union (AU) troops from partner nations as they prepare to deploy to support Somali forces in protecting civilians from Al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups under the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS). There are also more than 70 British troops stationed in Somalia and UK personnel have trained nearly 1,000 Somali soldiers and instructors to help build their capability. Minister Heappey met with Foreign Minister Abdisaid Muse Ali and Defence Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur to discuss the way forward for Somalia. He also met and spoke to the British troops currently assisting with the security sector reform in Somalia and ATMIS Force Commander Lt Gen Diomede Ndegeya about the challenges they face.The UN-backed ATMIS mission recently replaced the previous African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), with a revised mandate to take the mission forward by transferring security responsibilities to Somali forces and institutions. The Minister also travelled to Kenya, Uganda and Burundi – all important defence partners for the UK and major contributors to ATMIS. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said: - The UK is committed to helping to build security and stability in Somalia and the wider region. - It was incredibly valuable to meet with leaders from our most important allies and partners across East Africa to discuss how we can continue to work together to achieve our shared security goals. The Minister for the Armed Forces met Eugene Wamalwa, the Cabinet Secretary for Defence in Kenya, which has sent thousands of troops to its northern border to help maintain security. Kenya has suffered cross border terror attacks by Somali-based groups such as Al-Shabaab. Kenya is the UK’s closest defence partner in East Africa, with UK and Kenyan forces working closely and training together at the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK). In his first visit to Uganda in his role as Minister for the Armed Forces – a demonstration of the UK’s ongoing commitment to our security partnership – Minister Heappey met with President Yoweri Museveni and Defence Minister Vincent Ssempijja to discuss mutual security challenges and how to promote regional stability. Uganda is the largest troop contributor to ATMIS, with more than 6,000 personnel currently in the country, and many Ugandan troops have sacrificed their lives to help bring order to Somalia. UK personnel provide pre-deployment training to Ugandan soldiers heading to Somalia, sharing essential military skills including first aid and heavy weapons training. Minister Heappey also became the first UK minister in five years to visit Burundi. He met with President Evariste Ndayishimiye and Defence Minister Ir Alain Tribert Mutabazi to discuss defence engagement activity and their contribution to ATMIS. Roughly 4,000 Burundian troops are in Somalia, including the ATMIS Force Commander. The minister announced a new UK training offer for the Burundian National Defence Force comprising of English language training and disaster relief training for BNDF officers. He also laid a wreath at the war memorial in Bujumbura and paid tribute to the Burundian peacekeepers who lost their lives in a recent attack in Somalia, which killed up to 30 AU troops.