The international community on Thursday sought to mobilise both greater and more coherent support for Somalia’s beleaguered government and for the African Union peacekeeping force there.
The meeting at the UN General Assembly in New York took place as Somalia’s al-Qaeda-inspired al-Shabaab militants launched a fresh offensive in Mogadishu, sparking clashes that medics said killed at least 19 civilians.
UN special envoy for Somalia Augustine Mahiga said the meeting on Somalia was an opportunity to hear Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed report on the progress being made and the challenges faced.
The high-level talks offered “an opportunity to galvanise international support for the Transitional Federal Government [TGF] in Somalia and to mobilise resources” for the TFG and the African Union mission in Somalia (Amisom), he said.
AU Commission chairperson Jean Ping said the problem is not so much finding enough troops for Amisom — saying Uganda is ready to contribute more — but to raise enough funds to properly equip them and pay them decent wages.
Ping conceded that African peacekeepers had caused civilian casualties when al-Shabaab fighters used markets or mosques to fire rockets at the force in a bid to draw fire on civilians.
“It is a strategy of the al-Shabaab,” Ping said.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told Agence France-Presse while attending the meeting that progress was being made.
“There is a political consensus for well-coordinated aid for Somalia,” Frattini said.
“Members of the international community are convinced it is necessary to aid the Sharif government,” he added.
“A coherent strategy is needed to help the African Union pay for the efforts of the countries that have provided soldiers and also to multiply financial efforts,” Frattini said.
He said Italy pays the salaries of Somali police officers but added that the “European Union must do much more”, adding he proposed European coordination centred around the United Nations.
“The UN secretary general’s envoy [Mahiga] must coordinate all the efforts of the actors,” Frattini said.
“I’m persuaded that we would be ready to place the Italian efforts under UN coordination,” he said.
“We can’t have training of troops by French troops in Djibouti, training of troops by the Italians in Kenya and training of troops by the European Union in Uganda,” he added. — Sapa-AFP