UNSOS spearheaded reconstruction work at Somalia’s premier university, says AMISOM
Mogadishu – The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) officially handed over the premises of the Somali National University back to federal government authorities on Tuesday, relinquishing control of the institution, which it had occupied for the last 10 years.
AU troops from Burundi contingent first occupied the university in 2007, starting off as a small Forward Operating Base, and later evolving into a Battalion headquarters to coordinate operations against Al-Shabaab; succeeding to drive the militants out of Mogadishu through combined efforts with other AU troops.
The handover heralds a new phase for Somalia’s oldest university and paves way for the reopening of the learning institution. “We are transiting the University of Somalia from a military barracks back into an institution of higher learning,” Ambassador Francisco Caetano Madeira, the AU Special Representative for Somalia said, during the handover ceremony officiated by the Minister for Higher Education Mr. Abdirahman Dahir Osman.
The troops who set base at the university for a decade were relocated to AMISOM Sector 5 headquarters in Jowhar, in an exercise that commenced in April 2016.
“We had a collective meeting with all the stakeholders to include AMISOM, the government and the contingent(Burundi) as well as representatives of UNSOS to plan for the hand back of the location”, Mr. Clark Toes, the Chief of Service Delivery at the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) explained in an interview. “When we leave, the United Nations will leave behind 20 hard wall buildings that were constructed for the contingent during their stay here at a value of about $12million.”
Other than providing logistical and engineering support during the relocation exercise, UNSOS ensured that the premises was rebuilt with the least effect to the environment.
“We dismantled quite a number of prefabricated buildings, we dismantled 38 containerized bunkers, we dismantled level one hospital, the office blocks with administrative units and we moved them to Jowhar with the support of the Mission Enabling Unit supported by UNSOS”, Andrew Alele, AMISOM’s Civil Engineer said.
Established in 1954, the university closed its doors to students as a result of the outbreak of the civil war in 1991. However, it re-opened its constituent colleges in August 2014, to offer specialized training, after a return to relative peace.
According to Ambassador Madeira, relinquishing control of the university was the “start of the gradual process to hand over security to the Somali National Security Forces”.
“We are here for a sort of triple celebration. One, is to recognize the role of AMISOM and in this case, the Burundi contingent, more broadly AMISOM, working in partnership with the Somali security forces in securing this place and so much of Somalia in the last difficult 10 years and I pay deep tribute to that,” added Mr. Michael Keating, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Somalia.
Mr. Abdirahman Dahir Osman, the federal Minister for Higher Education described the handover as “a symbol of the rebirth of Somalia”.
“We give priority to security, economic development and importantly, education. We believe that education lays the foundation for sustainable development,” the minister said.
His sentiments were echoed by Mr. Mohamed Ahmed Jimale, the Rector of the university, who said handing back the premises to the federal government “marked a return of peace, security and stability”, in Somalia.
The first batch of student admissions to Somalia’s oldest university could start as early as September 2017, once the government gives the institution the green light.