To reach the highly strategic town of Baidoa in safety Forces News reporter Simon Newton and camera person Hannah King took to the air because the journey is too dangerous to be undertaken by road.

Al Shabaab controlled the town for three years until they were driven out by Somali and Ethiopian Forces in 2012, but they retain a strong presence in the surrounding countryside.

This is where the camp that British soldiers are training the Somali National Army is, and providing protection are Ethiopian troops. 

Around 10 British personnel are based in Baidoa, training the SNA in basic military skills.

Capt Alex Postles spoke about the sort of training they’re delivering to the Somali Army:

“We’re trying to implement a soldier first policy, to give them the skills they need to command their troops on the ground.

“The UN are going to come on board next week, to deliver a piece on human rights and gender sexual violence, which is important here in Somalia”.

Simon Newton Mogadashu

Private Abdul Rahman is 21 and translates for the British Army. He learned his English in Kenya and one day hopes to become a doctor, but in the meantime wants to help bring peace to Somalia:

“The people here are very happy - they are helping us, they’re friendly, they give us whatever we need. I’m really really thankful for them”.

The remnants of Italian colonial rule remain in the base but the once ornate villas are now ravaged by time and war and it’s now home to 60 Division of the Somali National Army.

Corruption is an underlying problem, and troops are subject to a process called ‘verification’ – a periodic check to make sure that every soldier on the payroll does really exist.

In charge of 60 Division is General Yarrow. He commands 4,000 troops and has been fighting Al Shabaab for a decade:

“Al Shabaab are weaker than before and what they do is bring misery to our civilians.

“They’re not even human, they’re an unbelievable group of people who do whatever they want. And we’ll continue to fight them."

Before it disintegrated during the civil war of the 1990s, Somalia had one of the largest militaries in Africa, and a fully equipped air force.

Simon Newton Mogadashu

Studies suggest it now has just 15,000 troops and a UN arms embargo, imposed 25 years ago, means they also lack heavy weaponry.

The ban was eased in 2013 but the General says his troops still lack basic equipment.

The British approach here differs from other training missions around the world.

Not only are they offering mentoring, but UK money is also going into bricks and mortar, and small stipends to try and provide a wider, more encompassing level of support, that will keep this army functioning as it tries to rebuild.

As larger numbers of troops are trained here it’s expected that more British soldiers will be deployed to Baidoa. 

For the Somalia Army this UK mission, which is costing millions of pounds, will be a vital step on the road to re-establishing itself as a professional military.

Simon Newton Mogadashu

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