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Burundi Proposes Offering Troops for Somalia, Uganda Parliament Stalls

01 February 2007

Burundi has agreed to offer troops for the African Union peacekeeping initiative in Somalia. Meanwhile, Uganda's parliament is brushing aside attempts by the ruling party to push through a motion to send Ugandan troops to Somalia. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

Burundi's Minister of Foreign Affairs Antoinette Batumubwira tells VOA that the proposal to send 1,000 troops to Somalia needs to be approved by Burundi's parliament and senate.

She explains the reasons behind the proposal.

"The African Union has asked to any country that could contribute troops that it could do so," said Batumubwira. "We have a battalion that is ready, that is trained for this kind of mission. We have been helped also when we had difficulties so we would like to also contribute to peacekeeping on the continent."

The foreign minister was referring to troops that were brought into Burundi as part of a peace process to end to more than a decade of civil war.

Meanwhile, in Uganda, the ruling party's efforts to push through a motion in parliament to debate the issue of Ugandan peacekeepers was voted down Wednesday, primarily because most opposition MPs had walked out of the house earlier to protest another issue.

The lawmakers had argued that it would be improper for the house to discuss the issue with so many opposition members absent.

The ruling National Resistance Movement last month approved a plan to send a contingent of Ugandan peacekeeping troops into Somalia.

At the time, the party's director of information, Ofwono Opondo, told VOA that "the deployment is as good as done," largely because the National Resistance Movement's caucus constitutes more than two-thirds of the members of parliament.

But some Ugandan lawmakers are doubtful about the proposal. Member of Parliament for Gulu Betty Aol Ocan explains.

"We still have problems also here, and we do not know the terms of these people [peacekeepers]. We do not know whether they are going as peacekeepers, or they are going as fighters, because right now there is still fighting in Somalia. So, there is a lot of mixed feelings there - we are not very sure," said Ocan.

The African Union has approved a plan to send 8,000 African peacekeepers into Somalia as part of efforts to stabilize the country, particularly after the ouster of the Islamic Courts Union.

During its summit earlier this week, African Union officials were pushing African countries to contribute troops to the mission. Several countries had indicated that they were thinking of doing so.

Since civil war broke out in 1991, militias loyal to clan and sub-clan-based factions have controlled different parts of the country, with no central authority to provide law and order and even basic services to the population.

A transitional Somali parliament was formed in Kenya more than two years ago following a peace process.

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