Somalia

Uganda awaiting go-ahead to send peacekeepers to Somalia

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By WAIRAGALA WAKABI

The EastAfrican

The Uganda People's Defence Forces says it is awaiting the go ahead from the African Union and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) before it deploys its troops in Somalia.

But the army said it had not marshalled enough logistics for the mission - more than a month after the deadline set by regional leaders for the deployment expired.

In March foreign and defence ministers from five countries in East Africa and the Horn of Africa decided that the peace support mission be deployed by April 30, but the $413 million needed for the mission had not been secured by last week.

Some $10.3 million, which Igad asked the African Union (AU) to provide to enable the airlifting of the first two battalions to Somalia has not materialised either, about two months after Igad put in an "emergency request."

"We have not received any funds yet, none of the donors has responded," said Peter Marwa, chief of conflict prevention, management and resolution at the Igad secretariat. He said it would be impossible for the troops to be airlifted to Somalia if initial funding was not secured.

Mr Marwa said that it was equally important to secure funds to sustain the mission for at least nine months.

Countries that will provide logistics and emergency assistance to Igasom - Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya - are working to identify what exactly they would be providing, Mr Marwa said. Igasom is an acronym for the Igad Peace Support Mission in Somalia.

In Kampala, military authorities, who completed training the UPDF battalion to be deployed in Somalia over a month ago, say they are in the dark about when the troops are likely to be deployed. Maj Shaban Bantariza, the UPDF spokesman, said last week that they were awaiting word from the AU and Igad on when the deployment would take place.

Uganda suspended the deployment of the troops towards the end of April, saying it had failed to raise the requisite logistics for the mission.

This was after it emerged that countries sending in peacekeepers had to foot the bill and wait for a refund once Igad's fund-raising campaign bears fruit.

Maj Bantariza said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was in a better position to tell what the situation was, but added that the Ugandan army was ready to send in its contingent of peacekeepers.

He said the UPDF is ready to go even if does not not have sufficient logistics, because delaying the mission could lead to its failure.

Igad countries agreed in March to send between 850 and 1,300 troops, to Somalia by April 30. At its full force, the envisaged mission will comprise eight battalions, which would be a maximum of 10,400 troops.

Initial troops were supposed to come from Uganda and Sudan, but on May 19 the Sudanese military said it was not ready to send in its troops because of the chaotic situation in Somalia.

Igad - which groups Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda - has told the countries deploying peacekeepers to fund their own troops with the promise that it would reimburse them once it gets the $413 million it is seeking for the mission.

The regional body has asked Uganda and Sudan to continue preparing their troops for deployment.

AU officials said that they were asking the European Union to fund the mission. They also planned to send officials to Scandinavia, Italy and the Arab League to seek funds.

Igad officials said they were making some progress in the realisation of the mission, noting that this was their first peace support venture and the delay were normal. The AU's Peace and Security commission and the UN Security Council have granted Igasom the mandate for peacekeeping.

A meeting of the PSC three weeks ago reaffirmed the authorisation for the peacekeeping mandate, but did not give Igasom the "peace enforcement" mandate that it sought in anticipation of violent acts in the mission.

"For now, the team is not asking for a peace enforcement mandate because it is going to keep peace. The mandate to enforce peace may only create problems. But if there is need for an enforcement mandate, say if our troops are under fire, then we shall request for this mandate," an AU official told The EastAfrican.

Authorisation for peace enforcement in missions is only granted by the UN Security Council, so the AU would have to take up the matter with the Council if it required it.

The Council has not yet acceded to the AU's request to lift the arms embargo on Somalia to enable the peacekeepers carry weapons to the mission area.

Somalia has been without a central government for over 14 years, and its transitional government - formed last year under the aegis of Igad - runs its business from Kenya.