Books at Wilson: "Fighting for Peace in Somalia" | Wilson Center
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Books at Wilson: "Fighting for Peace in Somalia"


On February 13, 2019, the Wilson Center Africa Program hosted Dr. Paul D. Williams of The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs for a Books at Wilson event launching his new book, Fighting for Peace in Somalia. Ms. Alice Hunt Friend, a Senior Fellow in International Security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), joined Dr. Williams as a discussant. The event was moderated by Mr. Mike Morrow, a Senior Diplomatic Fellow with the Wilson Center Africa Program. Mr. Morrow opened the event by recognizing the representatives of four AMSIOM troop-contributing countries present—Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Uganda—and thanking them for the service of their troops in Somalia.

Dr. Williams began by outlining the scope of his book, which is based on research he conducted while a fellow at the Wilson Center. Fighting for Peace in Somalia analyzes AMISOM’s “remarkable and important peace operation,” which began in 2007 as a small operation that controlled only a few sectors of Mogadishu. Since then, it has become the longest, largest, and most expensive African Union (AU) mission—and the largest and most deadly peace operation in the world. The book wades into the wider debate on peacekeeping, using the AMISOM case study to discern the limits of peace operations. Dr. Williams described four key lessons for peace operations: the importance of a unified logistics command, the difficulty of local security sector reform, the expectation of local populations that operations will provide for civilian protection—regardless of their mandate, and the need to “hardwire” the capacity of communications and propaganda warfare into operations at the outset of missions.

Ms. Alice Hunt Friend remarked that Fighting for Peace in Somalia is a rich source of empirical evidence on AMISOM’s efforts in Somalia. She also noted that Dr. Williams’ work was not only of interest to East Africa watchers, but also to anyone interested in global counterterrorism, peacekeeping, and international security. Ms. Friend observed that AMISOM has been an incredibly complex operation, and she highlighted the significant mismatch between AMISOM’s expansive, complex mission and the resources allocated to complete it. She also noted the near impossibility of conducting successful security sector reform during an ongoing war. Ms. Friend and Dr. Williams then discussed what a successful exit strategy for AMISOM might look like.

One notable attendee, Brigadier General Apollo Kasiita-Gowa, Defense Attaché at the Embassy of the Republic of Uganda, then thanked Dr. Williams for his book and for bringing AMISOM’s work to light. He underlined the importance of collaboration—between African states, with the AU, and with international partners—in funding, managing, and staffing AMISOM.

Dr. Williams and Ms. Friend then addressed questions from the public on the effect of U.S. airstrikes in Somalia and popular support for AMISOM in troop-contributing countries. They also spoke about Ethiopia’s upcoming command of AMISOM, the rivalry between al-Shabaab and ISIS, and changes in the international community’s approach to supporting the Somali government. 

Selected Quotes


Dr. Paul Williams 

"Interestingly, AMISOM was never given an explicit mandate to protect Somali civilians. But do you know what? That didn’t matter to many ordinary Somalis, who still expected AMISOM to protect them from Al Shabaab violence. The key lesson here becomes, just because you don’t write civilian protection into your mandate, it doesn’t insulate you from demands from the local population to protect them from this violence. And, if you don’t protect them, your legitimacy and your levels of popular support reduce dramatically, and quite quickly." 

Ms. Alice Hunt Friend

"U.S. airstrikes, and military pressure in general, against Al Shabaab is not…sufficient to generate the lasting stability everyone around the world would like to see in Somalia."



  • Michael Morrow

    Senior Diplomatic Fellow
    Senior Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State


  • Paul D. Williams

    Global Fellow
    Associate Professor of International Affairs, Elliot School of International Affairs, George Washington University
  • Alice Hunt Friend

    Senior Fellow, International Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies