The overall death toll for the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) is probably in the range of 1,600 troops, says a new report by a US expert on the war against Al-Shabaab.
The findings by scholar Paul Williams are based, he states, on five sources. The most comprehensive data comes from African Union (AU) financial compensation records on sums paid to families who lost loved ones in the years since Amisom’s deployment in 2007.
This new evidence comes from research into the mission, newly-released financial statements from the African Union (AU) from 2014 to 2018, a new dataset listing attacks on peacekeepers, and the erection of a “Memorial Wall of Our Heroes” in the AU’s Peace and Security building, which lists names of peacekeepers who died during AU-led and AU-authorized peace operations.
Prof Williams, author of the 2015 book—Fighting for Peace in Somalia—estimates that the number of AMISOM fatalities between March 2007 and mid-2017 was “probably more than 1,500,” but due to incomplete information, it was impossible to provide a definitive figure.
The AU continues to leave the decision on whether or not to release information about casualties to the respective troop-contributing countries (TCCs). To date, no AMISOM TCC has publicly released a comprehensive list of their personnel killed in Somalia.
New Financial Evidence
In March 2017, the AU released financial statements that contain detailed breakdowns of how the organization spent its money between 2014 and 2017, and in May 2019, released the report for 2018. The AU is to be commended for deciding to release this information, which represents an important step towards achieving financial transparency and accountability. These financial reports also reveal some important details about AMISOM by providing some information about the death and disability grants paid by the AU to the governments of its TCCs.
From information in the AU’s financial statements on AMISOM’s death and disability compensation payments between August 2009 and September 2012, it can be gleaned that AMISOM suffered 439 fatalities: 22 in 2009, 59 in 2010, 298 in 2011, and 60 in 2012.
The Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) signed between the AU and the TCC governments stated that $50,000 should be paid as death compensation to the deceased soldier’s government. The compensation amount for disability would depend on the degree of injury or disabilities suffered as determined by the joint AU/TCC medical board. The money for these payments came from the European Union, which provided significant financial assistance through its African Peace Facility.
The AU financial records from August 2009 to September 2012 show that death compensation payments of $50,000 were made for these 439 fatalities. But there was also an additional $5,779,000 paid out in disability compensation, almost always in payments of $10,000 for each of the approximately 575 injured soldiers. For the 37 months from August 2009 to September 2012, therefore, the AU spent $27,729,000 on death and disability compensation. Of this total, 79 percent was spent on death compensation and 21 percent on disability compensation.
It is in light of these insights Paul says we should assess the death and disability compensation data provided in the newly released AU financial statements for 2014 through 2018. These public reports reveal that the AU paid $74,624,000 in death and disability compensation between 2014 and 2018
‘ ‘If we assume a similar proportion of death and disability compensation in these payments as were evident in those made between August 2009 and September 2012, this would mean 79 percent was spent on death compensation ($58,952,960) and 21 percent on disability compensation ($15,671,040). This would equate to approximately 1,179 payments of $50,000 for deceased personnel and 1,567 payments of $10,000 for injured personnel.”
Given AMISOM’s numerous remote forward operating bases, the mission’s limited capacity for rapid casualty evacuation (partly owing to a lack of rapid response forces and appropriate helicopters), and the relatively poor state of its medical facilities, a ratio of approximately 3 killed for every 4 wounded peacekeepers is plausible (the 79:21 ratio). It is also very close to the actual killed to wounded ratio that occurred between August 2009 and September 2012.
Uganda has been a leading contributor to the AMISOM peace keeping mission and was the very first troops contributing country at its inception in 2007.