Somali, Ugandan leaders appeal for deployment of more peacekeepers

Addis Ababa, May 17, 2007 (The Ethiopian Herald/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) -- Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni have called for the speedy deployment of more peacekeepers in Somalia.

The two heads of state told a news conference in Kampala Tuesday that those countries that pledged to send peacekeepers under the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) should deploy urgently.

"We would like to appeal to the countries that promised to send troops to Somalia because the Ugandan troops are there alone. They should do whatever they can so that their contingents are in Somalia as soon as possible to help the Transitional Federal Government stabilize the country," Xinhua quoted Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf as saying.

"We should quickly build the Somali army because these peacekeepers are not going to stay in Somalia forever," said President Museveni.

An 8,000-strong African Union peace-keeping force is needed to stabilize Somalia but only half of that number has been promised. Uganda is so far the only country that has sent in 1,500 troops.

The other countries, Malawi, Ghana, Burundi and Nigeria, pledged to send troops but they have not given a timetable of their deployment.

President Museveni urged the countries to deploy the peacekeepers.

He said these countries should be involved in the peacemaking instead of waiting for peace to return and then keep it.

"If we follow the UN concept of waiting for peace to return before we deploy peacekeepers, then we are bound to lose many lives. We should deploy even when fighting is still going on. This is not a new concept, it was used by South Africa, Ethiopia and Mozambique when they deployed in Burundi even when the civil war was going on. Similarly, the same concept can be applied in Somalia," Museveni said.

President Yusuf said if the required number of peacekeepers is deployed, his government will continue to defeat the enemies of the people of Somalia, describing them as extremists.

Somalia has lacked an effective central authority since 1991.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Somali National Reconciliation Conference Ali Mahdi Mohamed revealed Tuesday the venue where the June meeting will be held.

Mr. Mahdi said the former compound of police transport maintenance in Mogadishu will host the national reconciliation meeting which is due to take place in mid-June.

"There are now preparations in the compound which is enough to accommodate the delegations," SomaliNet quoted him saying.

He said his reconciliation committee will send delegations to all regions in Somalia to invite the traditional leaders into the conference.

Mr. Mahdi noted that international delegates will observe the meeting.

He said the meeting will be inclusive and aimed to end the clan conflict in Somalia.

Ali Mahdi, former president in Somalia, said the former leaders of UIC can attend the meeting if they are representing their clans. He indicated that the reconciliation committee will guarantee the safety of all attendees.