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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Monday 7 March 2005

SOMALIA: Defence experts discuss proposed peacekeeping mission

KAMPALA, 7 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - Defence experts from several East African countries started a two-day meeting on Monday in Entebbe, Uganda, to discuss the proposed deployment of an African Union (AU) peacekeeping force to Somalia, a Ugandan military spokesman told IRIN.

"A meeting of defence experts from IGAD [Inter-governmental Authority on Development] countries started this morning in Entebbe to consider the nitty-gritty of the deployment in Somalia," Maj Shaban Bantariza told IRIN.

"They are debating things like who will deploy how many troops, the logistics involved in such deployment and other technical issues related to the deployment," Bantariza added.

The Entebbe meeting, he added, would be followed by another to be attended by chiefs of defence staff from the IGAD countries - Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. Defence ministers from these countries would also meet thereafter.

Last week, the Ugandan foreign affairs permanent secretary, Julius Onen, told IRIN that the Entebbe meeting would also "broadly" discuss the possible inclusion of troops from neighbouring countries.

Some Somali faction leaders, who are part of the transitional government, recently issued a statement expressing their opposition to some countries being involved in the proposed peacekeeping mission.

"We endorse the deployment of troops from the international community without the involvement of contingents from Somalia's immediate neighbours, Ethiopia and Djibouti," they said.

The statement was signed by warlords Hussein Mohamed Aidid, also deputy prime minister, Mohamed Qanyare Afrah, minister of national security, Musa Sudi Yalahow, minister of trade, Botan Isse, minister for demobilisation and Omar Mohamud "Finnish", minister for religious affairs.

The AU has authorised IGAD to send peacekeepers to Somalia to help the country's transitional government get a foothold there when it eventually relocates from exile in Nairobi.

Meanwhile, the United States government said on Thursday that it was opposed to the deployment of peacekeeping troops from Somalia's neighbours.

"The US shares the concerns of the international community and many Somalis regarding the introduction of foreign troops into Somalia," Richard Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said in a statement.

He added: "Somalia's neighbours have legitimate national interests that are best protected by the successful establishment of a stable and effective central government in Somalia, however, any external force should exclude troops from those countries.

"To include troops from neighbouring countries at this time could pose an insurmountable obstacle to the transitional federal government's ability to gain the support and trust of the Somali people due to the perception within Somalia that some neighbouring countries may be biased towards one or more elements of the transitional federal government," he continued.

Hundreds of Somalis took to the streets of Mogadishu on Sunday in support of the US position. Abdullahi Shirwa of Peaceline, a civil society group, whose group participated in the demonstration, told IRIN that the US decision "was a very positive one and we fully support it".

Commenting on the US statement, Ali told IRIN "the prime minister has no problem with the American position". He said that neighbouring countries had played a positive and important role in the birth of the transitional government, "but we also have to take into consideration international and Somali public opinion against the deployment from frontline state, however misplaced those opinions may be".

Matt Bryden, a Horn of Africa analyst for the International Crisis Group (ICG), called the US position "proactive". "Washington has clearly understood the risks involved in the 'front line states' sending troops to Somalia, including the opportunity it would represent for jihaadist groups inside and outside the country," Bryden said.

On 2 March, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said his country was ready to send peacekeepers to Somalia, but would not impose itself on its neighbour. "The bottom line is our offer is still on the table, but we are not going to impose ourselves on Somalia," Meles told a news conference in Addis Ababa. "It is up to the Somali government and the Somali people."

Somalia has had no central government since 1991 when former president, Mohamed Siyad Barre, was overthrown. IGAD sponsored two years of talks between various Somali clans and factions that culminated in the formation of the Somali transitional government in Kenya in October.

However, the administration has remained in Nairobi because of security concerns, although officials of the new government have visited the country to build support for their return.


This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004

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