AU agrees to send peace force to Somalia

The African Union has agreed in principle to deploy a peace support mission in the troubled Horn of Africa state of Somalia, which is trying to emerge from 13 years of anarchy, the AU said in a statement on Thursday.

The mission, which will be the first multinational force in Somalia since the end of a failed, United Nations-mandated intervention in 1995, is expected to help install the country’s transitional government, so far based in neighbouring Kenya for security reasons.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) “accepts in principle the deployment of an AU peace support mission in Somalia ... as soon as possible,” said the statement, released after the pan-African body met on Wednesday in Addis Ababa.

“The mission would both establish the level of security threat and play a role in paving the way for the safe relocation of the transitional institutions, envisaged at the end of January 2005,” according to a report prepared by the AU Commission.

The PSC also approved the creation of an AU advance mission, which will be based in Nairobi and which will work with the Somali government and other partners to plan for a speedy deployment.

Somalia has been effectively without a central government since dictator Mohammed Siad Barre was toppled in 1991, plunging the whole nation into a patchwork of fiefdoms governed by unruly warlords.

Last October, however, a Parliament and presidency were set up in neighbouring Kenya, pending their hoped-for installation in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, once the security situation there improves. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was elected President on October 10 by the new Parliament.

Prime Minister Mohammed Ali Gedi is expected to name his government this week, also in Nairobi, after the country’s Parliament sacked the first one that was formed in December.

The AU urged the Somali government “to effect appropriate arrangements and all such necessary legislative enactments, including security arrangements, in order to facilitate the deployment of the AU support mission for Somalia”.

The PSC statement did not give details on the force’s size, scope, mandate or when it will be deployed, but said the PSC urges the AU’s commission to prepare a detailed plan on the deployment of the force.

So far, Uganda has offered to provide 2 000 troops for the peace mission, which will be the first international force to enter Somalia since the UN troops and United States rangers withdrew in 1995 amid an escalation of anarchy spawned by the emergence of local warlords.

In October last year, Yusuf asked the AU to deploy up to 20 000 troops in his country to help disarm tens of thousands of factional fighters and restore stability to a state devastated by years of lawlessness.

The Kenyan government on Tuesday said the Somali government will give a date to relocate to their country after Prime Minister Gedi names his Cabinet.

The AU also requested the “member states to extend full support to the transitional national government in its efforts to establish a police force and army for Somalia to make effective the functioning of transitional institutions”, the statement said.

The AU Commission report recommends that a minimum of 6 000 troops and 4 000 to 5 000 police officers should be quickly trained to take part in the protection of the Somali leadership and institutions.
The UN Development Programme will assist in the training of police.

Violence still rages in several parts of Somalia despite the existence of a truce agreement signed in Kenya in October 2002 by the most powerful warlords in the country.—Sapa-AFP

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