A meeting of East African defence chiefs has recommended that a UN ban on Somalia’s neighbours sending peacekeeping troops to the anarchic country should be lifted, a report obtained by Reuters showed.
More than 6000 hard-pressed African Union troops are guarding Somalia’s fragile government in Mogadishu, but a UN resolution does not allow the country’s neighbours — Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti — to contribute forces to beef up the mission.
“The meeting therefore recommends the following to the council: … seek to lift UN resolution 1725 that limits neighbouring states from deploying in Somalia,” said the report on the meeting of chiefs of defence staff in Nairobi last week.
Djibouti planned to send 450 soldiers to Somalia in January to boost the AU’s AMISOM peace mission, but the resolution ties the hands of the small Red Sea country. The AMISON mission currently comprises soldiers from Uganda and Burundi.
The meeting also recommended that the region deploy an additional 2000 troops to bring the AMISOM force level for Mogadishu to 8100 peacekeepers.
A senior Somali official told Reuters their delegation did not endorse the document signed by seven defence chiefs from eastern Africa because the Somalis were concerned that unilateral intervention by neighbouring states could trigger further unrest in Somalia.
“We refused to sign the document in our country’s interest and our people have a very sensitive attitude towards foreign intervention, especially from Kenya and Ethiopia, which have closed their borders with Somalia,” the official, who wanted to remain unnamed, said.
“We can’t allow such a deal at the moment, but if the troops come under a United Nations or African Union mandate, we can agree to that.”
In 2006, Ethiopia, with tacit US support, sent troops to back Somalia’s interim government and drive hardline Islamists from power. The intervention sparked an insurgency that is still raging even though the Ethiopians pulled out in 2009.
The defence chiefs’ report is also seeking an expansion of the AU mission’s mandate, and recommends a 22 500-strong force to stabilise Somalia.
The member states of the defence body are Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Seychelles, Comoros, Uganda, Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda and Somalia. According the Somali official, Seychelles and Comoros were not represented at the conference.
Pic: Djibouti troops