AMISOM using sports to promote peace in Somalia


The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has started mobilising the youth through soccer as a unifying factor among the warring clans.

The sport is also used to make the youth busy and discourage them from joining the al Shabaab militants who have continued to recruit young people to fight against the peace keeping forces.

As a result, youth now turn up for training sessions at Ceel Jaale in Shalamboot townships in southern Somalia in anticipation of beating teams from other clans, not by use of a gun, but through soccer.

Major Joram Kabegambire says UPDF, working under AMISOM, were spearheading the programme, aimed at preventing the youth from joining al Shabab militants and other wrong elements.

The soccer programme is already underway Ceel Jaale and Shalamboot in the Lower Shebelle region, but efforts were being made to construct two more soccer fields at Marka Ayub and Buufow areas.

Teams from the Bimaal and Habar-Gidir clans have been competing, where community members including elders, chiefs, women and children are encouraged to turn up in big numbers to cheer their teams while playing.

“The competitions are aimed at unifying the youth and supporting the reconciliation process between the two clans,” says Major Kabegambire.

The teams have been provided with balls, nets and jerseys.

“If you leave them idle, you give a chance to any wrong groups to come and convince them to join their bases” he said.

The commanders, through interpreters, talk to players of the competing teams and encourage them to love one another and play a friendly game because they are one people.

“We ask them to shake hands, avoid injuring each other and continue with the spirit even after the games, which has strengthened the bond between these clans,” he says.

As a result, the clans from the two communities have resumed trading and have allowed vehicles to carry goods from one side to another, which he said never used to happen.

Hassan Hussein, a teacher and one of the clan elders says hostilities between the two clans have ceased after the intervention of AMISOM and they agreed to live in harmony with each other.

“Nowadays they stopped fighting, it is not like before when we used to kill each other,” he explains.

He says the youth love soccer and play together and return home without fighting, which he says is a good sign that there is now peace and good working relationship.
Al-Shaab, however, have their headquarters 8km from Ceel Jaale town and used to train their militants from near the AMISOM barracks at Battle Group 22 but with the good working relationship with the Somali National Army and local militias, the militants have been kept at bay.

The commander of Battle Group 22, Col. Bamwiseki says that because of the good working relationship after reconciling the rivaling clans, elders recently detected a group of al Shabaab militants who had used a shortcut to sneak into the town and engaged them.

According to Bamwiseki, AMISOM forces were tipped and joined in pursuit of the attackers and after two hours, some were killed and others fled.