AMISOM – African Union Soldiers on the Frontline in Somalia

In December, 2010 Kate Holt travelled to Mogadishu and was embedded with African Union Soldiers where she trained six soldiers on how to take photographs of their daily lives on the frontline…

Burundian soldiers provide fire support from a rooftop position at the old Military Academy, in Mogadishu, Somalia. AMISOM forces were providing fire support to the soldiers of Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and other Burundian soldiers as they seized control of key positions from al-Shabaab control. The fighting was part of a major push in Mogadishu by TFG and AMISOM force against the militants after the discovery of a trench network used by militants to move supplies and fighters around the capital.

Burundian soldiers provide fire support from a rooftop position at the old Military Academy, in Mogadishu, Somalia. AMISOM forces were providing fire support to the soldiers of Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and other Burundian soldiers as they seized control of key positions from al-Shabaab control. The fighting was part of a major push in Mogadishu by TFG and AMISOM force against the militants after the discovery of a trench network used by militants to move supplies and fighters around the capital.

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Burundian soldiers provide fire support from a rooftop position at the old Military Academy, in Mogadishu, Somalia. AMISOM forces were providing fire support to the soldiers of Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and other Burundian soldiers as they seized control of key positions from al-Shabaab control. The fighting was part of a major push in Mogadishu by TFG and AMISOM force against the militants after the discovery of a trench network used by militants to move supplies and fighters around the capital.

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Women wait with their children to see a doctor in the Outpatients Unit that is being run by AMISOM in the now dilapedated Aruba Hotel near the port in Mogadishu, Somalia, on the 25th July, 2011. AMISOM are the only organisation running an Out Patients Department in this area of Mogadishu and are are seeing over two thousand patients a week.

AMISOM soldiers advance on the frontline in the Sigaale District of Mogadishu, Somalia on December 15th, 2010. The commander of the AMISOM forces, Major General Mugisha, accompanied by Colonel Ondoga, the commander of the Ugandan Contingent, were making a tour of the frontline following heavy fighting last night.

AMISOM soldiers advance on the frontline in the Sigaale District of Mogadishu, Somalia on December 15th, 2010. The commander of the AMISOM forces, Major General Mugisha, accompanied by Colonel Ondoga, the commander of the Ugandan Contingent, were making a tour of the frontline following heavy fighting last night.

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Ugandan Marines launch their boat in the sea near Mogadishu Airport. AMISOM forces patrol the shoreline every time a flight is due to land as well as securing the Mogadishu coastline against pirate or insurgent attacks from the sea. Mogadishu leads Somalia in port traffic and still serves as a major seaport. Daily shipments bring in vehicles, foodstuffs and electronic goods, and the revenue generated from port taxes is a significant source of income for the new government. AMISOM assists in securing the port.

An empty road leading to the frontline in Mogadishu. Buildings along the route have been abandoned by civilians and are instead lived and fought in by AMISOM forces as they advance, building by building, street by street into al-Shabaab held areas.

An empty road leading to the frontline in Mogadishu. Buildings along the route have been abandoned by civilians and are instead lived and fought in by AMISOM forces as they advance, building by building, street by street into al-Shabaab held areas.

An AMISOM soldier walks passed a delivery of grains sacks at the port in Mogadishu, Somalia on the 12th January, 2011. Today, the Prime Minister of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Mohamed Farmajo appealed to the Security Council for an increase in humanitarian aid as over one million Somalis face starvation.

An AMISOM soldier walks passed a delivery of grains sacks at the port in Mogadishu, Somalia on the 12th January, 2011. Today, the Prime Minister of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Mohamed Farmajo appealed to the Security Council for an increase in humanitarian aid as over one million Somalis face starvation.

Newly recruited Somali police officers demonstrate their drill for the Somali President and the AMISOM Force Commander at the airport in Mogadishu. Over 400 TFG police officers have so far been trained. © Stephen Mugabi

Newly recruited Somali police officers demonstrate their drill for the Somali President and the AMISOM Force Commander at the airport in Mogadishu. Over 400 TFG police officers have so far been trained. © Stephen Mugabi

AMISIOM soldiers man walk through a house they have just taken from the control of Al Shabaab insurgents in the Sigaale District of Mogadishu, Somalia on February 19th, 2011.

AMISIOM soldiers man walk through a house they have just taken from the control of Al Shabaab insurgents in the Sigaale District of Mogadishu, Somalia on February 19th, 2011.

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A mother watches her child in the emergency medical centre in the Burundi Contingent Headquarters in the former University in Mogadishu. The child was burnt when the house they were sheltering in was bombed.

A child is treated for malnutrition at the medical centre established for the treatment of civilians in the Burundi Contingent Headquarters in the former University of Mogadishu. Part of AMISOMÕs mandate is to facilitate humanitarian assistance. This means protecting physical stocks of aid in the seaport, the airport and elsewhere as well as providing safe routes to and from distribution sites in the city.

A child is treated for malnutrition at the medical centre established for the treatment of civilians in the Burundi Contingent Headquarters in the former University of Mogadishu. Part of AMISOMÕs mandate is to facilitate humanitarian assistance. This means protecting physical stocks of aid in the seaport, the airport and elsewhere as well as providing safe routes to and from distribution sites in the city.

Soldiers from Burundi working for AMISOM shoot from a rooftop position at the old Military Academy, held by the Burundian contingent, in Mogadishu, Somalia on the 23rd February, 2011. They were providing fire support to soldiers from the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and other Burundian soldiers as they took control of key tactical positions from insurgent groups.

Soldiers from Burundi working for AMISOM shoot from a rooftop position at the old Military Academy, held by the Burundian contingent, in Mogadishu, Somalia on the 23rd February, 2011. They were providing fire support to soldiers from the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and other Burundian soldiers as they took control of key tactical positions from insurgent groups.

Soldiers from Burundi working for AMISOM, load bullets from a rooftop position at the old Military Academy, held by the Burundian contingent, in Mogadishu, Somalia on the 23rd February, 2011. They were providing fire support to soldiers from the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and other Burundian soldiers as they took control of key tactical positions from insurgent groups.

Soldiers from Burundi working for AMISOM, load bullets from a rooftop position at the old Military Academy, held by the Burundian contingent, in Mogadishu, Somalia on the 23rd February, 2011. They were providing fire support to soldiers from the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and other Burundian soldiers as they took control of key tactical positions from insurgent groups.

A Burundian peace-keeper, injured in gun battle between African Union Soldiers and al-Shabaab insurgents recovers in an emergency medical facility at the old Military Academy in Mogadishu. The African Union peace-keepers were supporting Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers as they attempted to wrest key parts of the city from al-Shabaab control.

A Burundian peace-keeper, injured in gun battle between African Union Soldiers and al-Shabaab insurgents recovers in an emergency medical facility at the old Military Academy in Mogadishu. The African Union peace-keepers were supporting Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers as they attempted to wrest key parts of the city from al-Shabaab control.

Orange plastic shelters, used as temporary accommodation by displaced people, sprawl into the distance beneath the protecting body of an AMISOM machine-gun in the Badbado Camp in Mogadishu. The camp was established for those who have arrived in Mogadishu from other parts of Somalia, mostly fleeing from a combination of prolonged drought or insurgent violence. The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Somalia threatens the lives of up to 750,000 Somalis. AMISOMÕs mandated role of securing access for humanitarian aid is an essential part of the attempt to control this unfolding tragedy.

Orange plastic shelters, used as temporary accommodation by displaced people, sprawl into the distance beneath the protecting body of an AMISOM machine-gun in the Badbado Camp in Mogadishu. The camp was established for those who have arrived in Mogadishu from other parts of Somalia, mostly fleeing from a combination of prolonged drought or insurgent violence. The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Somalia threatens the lives of up to 750,000 Somalis. AMISOMÕs mandated role of securing access for humanitarian aid is an essential part of the attempt to control this unfolding tragedy.

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Families who have come to Mogadishu from areas of Somalia where a prelonged drought has affected them for nearly four years queue up in BadBadu camp for Internally Displaced People in Mogadishu, Somalia on the 24th July, 2011.

Soldiers hold a discussion in front of the Aruba Hotel, now an AMISOM command centre, near Mogadishu Seaport. The continuing operation of the port is essential to the stabilisation of the city since most of the of humanitarian aid passes through it.

Soldiers hold a discussion in front of the Aruba Hotel, now an AMISOM command centre, near Mogadishu Seaport. The continuing operation of the port is essential to the stabilisation of the city since most of the of humanitarian aid passes through it.

A soldier from Burundi rests on his bed in a bunker on the frontline while his colleague mans a gun position on the frontline in the Sigaale District of Mogadishu.

A soldier from Burundi rests on his bed in a bunker on the frontline while his colleague mans a gun position on the frontline in the Sigaale District of Mogadishu.

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Women and children collect water that has been delivered by Ugandan troops from the AMISOM mission to Somalia distribute water at a camp for people displaced by drought, in Mogadishu, Somalia on the 27th July, 2011. The UN says East Africa is experiencing the worst drought in 60 years, with more than 10 million people threatened by starvation because of a lack of rain and the failure of government to adequately finance agriculture and irrigation schemes.

A Ugandan doctor working for AMISOM administers drugs in a temporary clinic set up to provide healthcare for defecting Al Shabaab fighters and their families.AMISOM doctors and medics work with limited resources and in difficult conditions to provide one of the few sources of free medical assistance for the population of Mogadishu, sometimes seeing over 2000 patients per day.

A Ugandan doctor working for AMISOM administers drugs in a temporary clinic set up to provide healthcare for defecting Al Shabaab fighters and their families.AMISOM doctors and medics work with limited resources and in difficult conditions to provide one of the few sources of free medical assistance for the population of Mogadishu, sometimes seeing over 2000 patients per day.

An AMISOM soldier keeps watch over the Old Seaport from a position in the derelict Aruba Hotel in Mogadishu. Mogadishu leads Somalia in port traffic and still serves as a major seaport. Daily shipments bring in vehicles, foodstuffs and electronic goods, and the revenue generated from port taxes is a significant source of income for the new government. AMISOM assists in securing the port.

An AMISOM soldier keeps watch over the Old Seaport from a position in the derelict Aruba Hotel in Mogadishu. Mogadishu leads Somalia in port traffic and still serves as a major seaport. Daily shipments bring in vehicles, foodstuffs and electronic goods, and the revenue generated from port taxes is a significant source of income for the new government. AMISOM assists in securing the port.

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AMISOM soldiers stand next to their armored vehicles before heading out on patrol through the streets of Mogadishu. Soldiers patrol constantly as part of the AMISOM mandate to assist in the maintenance of peace and stability in government controlled areas of the city.

AU soldiers man their positions in a house they have just taken from the control of Al Shabaab insurgents in the Sigaale District of Mogadishu, Somalia on December 15th, 2010. The commander of the AMISOM forces, Major General Mugisha, accompanied by Colonel Ondoga, the commander of the Ugandan Contingent, were making a tour of the frontline following heavy fighting last night.

AU soldiers man their positions in a house they have just taken from the control of Al Shabaab insurgents in the Sigaale District of Mogadishu, Somalia on December 15th, 2010. The commander of the AMISOM forces, Major General Mugisha, accompanied by Colonel Ondoga, the commander of the Ugandan Contingent, were making a tour of the frontline following heavy fighting last night.

The then AMISOM Force Commander, Major General Nathan Mugisha is shown changes to the frontline inside a building that has recently been captured from al-Shabaab in the Sigaale District of Mogadishu. Major General Mugisha, accompanied by Colonel Ondoga, the commander of the Ugandan Contingent, were making a tour of the frontline following heavy fighting the previous night.

The then AMISOM Force Commander, Major General Nathan Mugisha is shown changes to the frontline inside a building that has recently been captured from al-Shabaab in the Sigaale District of Mogadishu. Major General Mugisha, accompanied by Colonel Ondoga, the commander of the Ugandan Contingent, were making a tour of the frontline following heavy fighting the previous night.

An AMISOM soldier helps carry a civilian casualty to a nearby aid post in the aftermath of a bomb blast in Mogadishu. © Emmanuel Mucunguzi

An AMISOM soldier helps carry a civilian casualty to a nearby aid post in the aftermath of a bomb blast in Mogadishu. © Emmanuel Mucunguzi

An AMISOM soldier mans a gun position on the frontline in the Sigaale District of Mogadishu. © Jean Claude Mbayisenga

An AMISOM soldier mans a gun position on the frontline in the Sigaale District of Mogadishu. © Jean Claude Mbayisenga

Women and children stand in a street that has recently been seized by AMISOM troops from the control of al-Shabaab in the Sigaale District of Mogadishu. As progress on the frontline continued AMISOM encouraged civilians to return to their homes once the areas had been cleared of al-Shabaab booby traps and the areas secured.

Women and children stand in a street that has recently been seized by AMISOM troops from the control of al-Shabaab in the Sigaale District of Mogadishu. As progress on the frontline continued AMISOM encouraged civilians to return to their homes once the areas had been cleared of al-Shabaab booby traps and the areas secured.

AMISOM soldiers haul their equipment (including bed rolls) to new positions on the frontline in Mogadishu. © Jean Claude Mbayisenga

AMISOM soldiers haul their equipment (including bed rolls) to new positions on the frontline in Mogadishu. © Jean Claude Mbayisenga

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Stephen Mugabi, a Ugandan soldier who underwent photographic training, stands in front of the entrance to the Brothers in Arms Exhibition in which one of his photos is displayed in Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya on October 6th, 2011.

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The entrance to the Brothers in Arms Exhibition in Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya on October 6th, 2011.

The photographs that were taken by Ugandan and Burundian soldiers are on display along with their biographies at the Brothers in Arms Exhibition in Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya on October 6th, 2011.

The photographs that were taken by Ugandan and Burundian soldiers are on display along with their biographies at the Brothers in Arms Exhibition in Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya on October 6th, 2011.

Photographs depicting the humanitarian agenda of AMISOM are on display at the Brothers in Arms Exhibition in Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya on October 6th, 2011.

Photographs depicting the humanitarian agenda of AMISOM are on display at the Brothers in Arms Exhibition in Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya on October 6th, 2011.

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Photographs depicting the humanitarian agenda of AMISOM are on display at the Brothers in Arms Exhibition in Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya on October 6th, 2011.

Photographs depicting the humanitarian agenda of AMISOM are on display at the Brothers in Arms Exhibition in Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya on October 6th, 2011.

Photographs depicting the humanitarian agenda of AMISOM are on display at the Brothers in Arms Exhibition in Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya on October 6th, 2011.

Photographs depicting the effects of twenty years of civil war in Mogadishu are on display at the Brothers in Arms Exhibition in Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya on October 6th, 2011.

Photographs depicting the effects of twenty years of civil war in Mogadishu are on display at the Brothers in Arms Exhibition in Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya on October 6th, 2011.

Multimedia piece featured on The Economist
Multimedia piece featured on The Guardian

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is a regional peacekeeping mission set up by the African Union, and supported by the United Nations. The first batch of peacekeepers deployed on 6th March, 2007 and currently over 10,000 peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi , are operating in Mogadishu.

 

The principal aim of AMISOM was to provide support for Somalia’s Transitory Federal Institutions (TFI’s) in their stabilisation efforts and in the pursuit of political dialogue and of reconciliation. AMISOM is also mandated to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and to create the necessary conditions for reconciliation and sustainable development in Somalia.

 

In December, 2010 Kate Holt, was commissioned by the African Union Information Support Team (IST). Kate travelled four times to Mogadishu in the space of 18 months and was embedded with African Union Soldiers from both Uganda and Burundi. As well as photographing the the work of the soldiers, particularly their humanitarian agenda, she also trained six soldiers from both countries in how to take photographs of their daily life on the frontline.

 

Photographs taken by the soldiers, as well as Kate’s photographs, were exhibited in Nairobi, Kampala and Bujumbura in an exhibition entitled “Brothers in Arms.” Arete helped promote the exhibition through a series of articles and reviews.

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