SOMALIA: Opposition to IGAD's insistence on troop deployment continues
NAIROBI, 17 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - The announcement on Monday by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) that it would deploy peacekeepers in Somalia with or without the consent of faction leaders has drawn sharp reactions from the Somali population - and some members of the Somali transitional federal government (TFG).
"The decision is not one that IGAD can make on its own - this is a partnership, and we must await the decision of the [TFG] parliament before the troops can come in," Abdulrahman Aden Ibbi, minister of state for parliamentary affairs, told IRIN on Thursday.
This latest wave of opposition, including two days of demonstrations in the nation's capital, Mogadishu, on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed a statement made by the IGAD chairman, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
"We are going to deploy with or without the support of the warlords," Museveni said. "Why should the warlords for example reject Ethiopia and Kenya?"
Since February, when the African Union authorised an IGAD peace mission to be sent to Somalia, strong opposition has been expressed in the Horn of Africa state. Opposition has been particularly directed at troops from neighbouring states, which are believed to have ulterior motives in sending forces into the war-ravaged country.
"We are not opposed to all the troops, just those from the frontline states - Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. For example, we welcome Ugandan troops 100 percent," Ibbi said.
"We are not saying they [the frontline states] are our enemies," he added, "but we do not want to agitate the very fragile situation in Somalia - we don't want another civil war."
Abdullahi Shirwa, spokesman for Civil Society in Action, a Somali organisation that brings together 58 civil-society groups, told IRIN: "The IGAD decision is very dangerous - [it] can lead to the disintegration of the fragile new government, and could re-ignite the civil war in the country."
Shirwa said his group, which organised the demonstrations, was not opposed to the sending of peacekeepers, "but we are opposed to the deployment of troops from neighbouring countries".
He added, "These countries have their [own] agenda in the country and cannot be expected to be neutral."
Another concern voiced by opponents of the plan is the lack of a clear mandate for any eventual peacekeepers.
"The mandate of the peacekeeping troops should be very clear and transparent. Up to now no one is saying what their mandate would be," Shirwa said.
Members of the international community, including the United States and the International Crisis Group (ICG), a think-tank, have also expressed concern about deploying troops from neighbouring countries.
"There is popular opposition to the peace mission within Somalia, and such a move could jeopardise the peace process," Matt Bryden, the director of the ICG's Horn of Africa project, told IRIN.
These reactions came as the transitional federal parliament convened in Nairobi, Kenya, on Thursday to debate the deployment of foreign peacekeepers.
IGAD's Council of Ministers also assembled in Nairobi on Thursday to discuss the Somali peace process.
"The need for a peace-support mission for Somalia has been put forward," Babafemi Badejo, acting representative of the UN secretary-general, said at the opening of the meeting. "The African Union and IGAD are looking at the best way to meet this perceived need of the Somali authorities."
In 2002, IGAD sponsored two years of peace talks that led to the formation of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed's TFG. The TFG is attempting to relocate from its base in Nairobi, Kenya, and requested the deployment of foreign peacekeepers to facilitate its successful transition to Mogadishu.