AU member states urged to reinforce Somalia mission

By Guled Mohamed

MOGADISHU, May 11 (Reuters) - The African Union (AU) on Friday urged member states who have pledged troops to its peacekeeping mission in Somalia to deploy them as soon as possible to allow Ethiopian troops to withdraw.

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is supposed to replace Ethiopian soldiers helping the interim government in taming the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.

But only 1,500 Ugandan soldiers have deployed so far, less than a fifth of the planned, 8,000-strong unit.

"Those countries that are ready to contribute troops and those partners who are ready should rush forward and give us the means with which full AMISOM can be deployed to allow Ethiopians to withdraw," AU envoy to Somalia Mohamed Ali Foum told Reuters.

He said he hoped Burundi and Nigeria would be ready to deploy soon. As well as those countries, Malawi and Ghana had said they were willing to send soldiers.

Recent violence in Mogadishu has unnerved some military commanders around the region. As with its troubled peacekeeping foray in Sudan's Darfur region, the AU faces a perennial shortage of money and equipment.

Speaking in Mogadishu where he is on a visit to spearhead peace efforts, Foum said he was confident peace could be maintained with a full deployment.

"I have great faith that Somalia is coming together," said Foum, a former Tanzanian diplomat and deputy foreign minister. "It is incumbent for us in the international community to help Somalia stand back on its feet."

Foum urged the local community to forget clan differences and help their government rebuild a nation shattered by 16 years of anarchy since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Formed in neighbouring Kenya in 2004 as a 14th attempt at establishing central rule, the interim Somali government has been fighting an insurgency that has killed at least 1,300 people since February.

Just days ago, it declared victory, but is still wary of guerrilla-style attacks.

Backed by Ethiopian troops, tanks and warplanes, Somali forces ousted rival Islamists in January and are trying to secure the capital.

"The full deployment of AMISOM will actually help the Ethiopians in their stated desire to get out of Somalia," Foum said.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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