Thursday, January 5, 2012

AU asks UN to increase peacekeeping force in Somalia to 17,700

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) – The African Union on Thursday asked the United Nations to authorise an increase of its peacekeeping force in war-torn Somalia by 5,700 to 17,700 amid mounting attacks by Islamist rebels.

Monica Juma, Kenya’s ambassador to the UN, made the announcement. The African force, called AMISOM, has been functioning under UN mandate since 2007 in the lawless Horn of Africa nation.

“The highlights were: the need to increase the AMISOM troops from 12,000 to 17,700, the need to fast track the creation of an administrative unit in the liberated areas,” Juma said, after presiding over a meeting of the AU’s Peace and Security Council in the Ethiopian capital.

She also highlighted the need for “logistical support in order to optimise the capability of the AMISOM troops”, and to beef up the “capability of the TFG (transitional government forces) and allied forces in order… to begin to create a Somalian security force.”

Regional states strive to battle the extremist Shebab insurgents who control much of southern Somalia.

The AMISOM currently comprises Djiboutian, Ugandan and Burundian soldiers, who have been deployed since 2007 to protect the Western-backed government from the Shebab in the war-shattered capital.

The hardline insurgents control large parts of southern Somalia but are facing increasing pressure from regional armies and government forces, with the rebels leaving fixed positions in Mogadishu in favour of guerrilla tactics.

The AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra said the African forces were now in a position to quell both the Shebab and the pirates.

“Whatever investment the international community is ready to make for Somalia, it would be really serving both causes. And in the same time assist nation building and a post-conflict peace consolidation,” he said.

In October, Kenya sent tanks and troops into southern Somalia to fight the Shebab militia which Nairobi blames for a series of cross-border attacks and kidnappings of foreigners.

Ethiopian soldiers were reported to have crossed into western Somalia in November, although Addis Ababa has denied its forces crossed the border.

Eritrea has been accused of backing the hardline Shebab, although it too denies any involvement in the conflict.

Somalia has been ravaged by a nearly uninterrupted civil war since the 1991 ouster of president Siad Barre sparked vicious bloodletting by rival militias fighting for power.

In the latest move to return stability, Somali leaders in September signed a UN-backed agreement to improve security, adopt a new constitution and hold polls by August 2012 when the life of the current transitional government expires.

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