The United Nations Security Council has moved a step closer to sending a new peacekeeping force to troubled Somalia.
The world body`s highest decision-making authority earlier this week renewed its authorisation of the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia
The Security Council also called on Africa to boost the size of the force, while signalling its intention to establish a United Nations force, when conditions permit, in the Horn of Africa country that has lacked a functioning central government since 1991, the UN News Centre says.
In the resolution adopted unanimously by the 15-member body, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is requested to establish a trust fund to help support the AU force, known as AMISOM, and to facilitate a logistical support package, training and equipment, in anticipation of its eventual absorption into a UN force.
The Council also urged African nations to boost AMISOM”s troop strength from the current 2600 to the 8000 originally authorised.
It requested Ban to develop the mandate for a UN force including assisting the flow of humanitarian aid, monitoring a ceasefire and assisting “in supporting the effective re-establishment and training of inclusive Somali security forces, including military, police and judiciary” by 15 April.
The “follow-on” UN force is subject, however, to a further decision of the Council, to be taken by 1 June 2009, according to the resolution.
Violence continues in Somalia despite the signing in June 2008 of the UN-facilitated Djibouti Agreement by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS).
Both sides agreed in that pact to end their conflict and called on the UN to deploy an international stabilization force in the troubled nation.
In his latest comments on the issue, in December, Ban has stated that conditions are not yet right for a UN peacekeeping operation in Somalia and he recommended strengthening the AU Mission.
Many Security Council members who support assistance to AMISOM, also warned against a too-hasty authorisation of a UN force, citing chaotic conditions in the country and difficulties in mobilizing peacekeeping resources.
In the past few days, as Ethiopian troops withdrew from Mogadishu two years after rolling in to support the embattled UN-supported government from a growing insurgency, Special Representative for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah urged local factions to ensure peace and stability in the war-ravaged country and to hasten the election of a new president.
“This is a key moment for Somalia and it is extremely important to get it right, after almost two decades of violence,” he said.
“The Committee members are working responsibly to ensure there is a fair process which should lead to the election of a new head of State,” he added.
The UN withdrew its UNOSOM II mission that included US troops in March 1995 after it became the object of militia attack.