SOMALIA: AU seeks troops for peace mission

Monday, February 12, 2007
The African Union's (AU) new chairman, President John Kufuor of Ghana, appealed on Tuesday to African governments to contribute troops to a planned peace and stabilisation force for strife-town Somalia.

"We need 8,000 troops; we only have 4,000 so far," Kufuor said at the end of the AU summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where the pan-African body is headquartered. The Ghanaian leader said Uganda, Malawi, Burundi, Ghana and Nigeria had expressed a willingness to contribute to a peacekeeping force for Somalia.

The force is expected to replace Ethiopian troops who went into Somalia in December 2006 and helped the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) defeat the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), whose forces had seized control of most the country and were undermining the limited authority of the interim government set up in 2004 after reconciliation talks in neighbouring Kenya.

"We can’t resign ourselves to the suffering of our people," said Kufuor, exhorting the African heads of state and government to empathise with the plight of the people of Somalia, a country beset by factional violence and anarchy since the overthrow in 1991 of the administration headed by the late Muhammad Siyad Barre.

Somalia's interim President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed announced that the TFG was planning an all-inclusive reconciliation conference in an effort to restore stability to the country.

Speaking to journalists in Addis Ababa on Tuesday, EU commissioner Louis Michel said the TFG had met the necessary conditions for the release of funds by agreeing to the conference.

Michel said the organisation would provide 15 million euros (US$20 million) to fund the planned peacekeeping force, but stressed the need for political dialogue among Somalis.

Yusuf told journalists at the same press conference: “We understood each other and we agreed to work together.”

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon echoed Michel’s comments, saying there was a need to support the efforts of the TFG to establish itself. He called for an all-inclusive process, bringing in moderate members of the UIC.

Meanwhile, in Mogadishu, the attacks targeting Ethiopian troops and government forces continued on Tuesday night when unknown gunmen hit one of the main bases of Ethiopian troops in the city.

"They [gunmen] attacked Eil Irfiid [military base on the outskirts of the city] at 8:30 p.m. with RPGs [bazookas] and mortars," said a local journalist.

These attacks are becoming a "normal part of life in the city", he added.

"Life at night in Mogadishu is becoming very dangerous, with no movement possible. My friend's wife went into labour last night at Km4 area, but she could not be taken to a hospital for fear of attacks," he said.
Author: IRIN
Source: IRIN
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