UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
SOMALIA: African Union discusses peacekeeping mission
ADDIS ABABA, 13 Feb 2007 (IRIN) - Plans to deploy peacekeepers in Somalia have moved into top gear, with the African Union looking at initially deploying three operational battalions from Uganda and Nigeria, officials said.
"Our focus is on the deployment of those three first battalions," Said Djinnit, AU commissioner for Peace and Security, said on Monday.
"If we start deploying, if it creates, as we hope, a positive dynamic on the ground, I think the problem of finding troops will not be the biggest challenge for us," Djinnit told reporters ahead of meetings at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa to prepare the operational phase of the AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
"The biggest challenge remains finance and logistics," he added.
Uganda has already appointed the commander of the force and sent a recognition mission to Somalia and its parliament is discussing the deployment of troops.
The AU meetings are expected to end on Wednesday. "One group involving the AU, IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development], the United Nations, the governments of Somalia and Ethiopia, and the troop-contributing countries from African member states is working on military planning," Djinnit said.
"This group will prepare documents on rules of engagement, standards of equipment, mission plans, and other related aspects of the deployment," he added.
Another meeting involved all member states willing to provide logistics and finance to sustain this mission.
"We are now in business, we are in the process of active preparation for the deployment, there is a general sense of moving quickly with the support of the international community," Djinnit explained.
Five countries have so far agreed to contribute troops - Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Malawi and Burundi. However, the troops pledged by those countries are only half the required 8,000 peace-keepers needed, according to the AU Peace and Security resolutions.
To bridge the gap, the AU has launched several appeals for other countries to contribute troops or support. So far, Algeria and America have agreed to participate in airlifting troops. Britain has offered a package including US$8million while the European Union has pledged 15 million Euros (US$19.5 million).
The US is contributing $14 million to AMISOM. "The AU commitment is clear and now it’s moving forward," US Ambassador to the AU, Cindy Courville, told reporters.
The security situation in Somalia is deteriorating. Several attacks have been reported in the past few days, especially in the capital, Mogadishu. Last week, several hundred demonstrators threatened to launch guerrilla warfare against any foreign troops deployed in Somalia.
The peacekeepers are intended to prop up the weak transitional government that took control of Mogadishu after its Ethiopian-backed troops routed the Union of Islamic Courts in December.
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