Somali stabilisation efforts gather pace

MOGADISHU (AP) — The first African peacekeepers to help the government assert its authority in Somalia are expected by the end of January, the prime minister said Tuesday.

Reporting to Somalia’s transitional parliament about the government’s work since it relocated to the capital, Mogadishu, in December, Prime Minister Ali Mohammad Gedi also said the government would not negotiate with the remnants of an Islamist movement it recently ousted — with key help from Ethiopian troops — from Mogadishu and much of the rest of southern Somalia.

The government had been asked to open talks, but “that will never happen because there is no existing rival organization to the government now,” he said.

On peacekeepers, he said a team from the African Union is in the country for discussions about the size and mandate of a proposed African peacekeeping mission.

“We expect troops from Uganda, Nigeria, South Africa, Malawi, Senegal and other countries by the end of January,” Gedi told parliament, which still sits in Baidoa, the government’s former base about 250 kilometres northwest of Mogadishu.

Uganda has indicated it is willing to send 1,500 peacekeepers as part of a wider mission.

In Dakar, Senegal, Senegalese army spokesman Col. Antoine Wardini said Monday that his government had received the request for troops, but said there were not yet plans to contribute. He said such a decision would be up to President Abdoulaye Wade.

Nigeria has said previously it would not comment on whether it would send troops until after an African Union summit set for January 29-30 in Ethiopia.

In neighbouring Kenya, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said that an African “stabilisation force,” to Somalia should be deployed immediately.

The leaders welcomed offers by a number of unnamed African countries to contribute troops, said a joint statement issued in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The United States, the United Nations and the African Union all want to deploy African peacekeepers to stop Somalia from returning to clan-based violence and anarchy that has characterised the country since 1991 when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohammad Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

But so far few African governments have responded to the call for an 8,000-strong peacekeeping force. No country is likely to send peacekeepers into Somalia if there is fighting.

There has been sporadic fighting since the government took over Mogadishu on December 28. Islamist leaders have pledged to carry on a guerrilla war as long as Ethiopian troops remain in Somalia.

A UN peacekeeping operation in Somalia in the 1990s saw clashes between foreign troops and Somali warlords’ fighters, including the notorious downings of two US military Black Hawk helicopters in 1993. The debacle led to the US withdrawal from Somalia in 1994, and that was followed a year later by the departure of UN peacekeepers.

Since wresting Mogadishu from the Islamic Courts, the government has taken several steps meant to assert its authority, with so far uncertain results.

A call for national disarmament was largely ignored.

Monday, President Abdullahi Yusuf appointed a mayor and administration for Mogadishu.

On Tuesday, the government allowed three Somali radio stations and Al-Jazeera, the international television station, to resume operations after ordering them to shut down Monday.

“The media owners agreed with the government to cooperate in the effort to restore peace and stability in Somalia,” said Abdirahman Dinari, the government spokesman.

A director of Shabelle radio station, Mohammad Amin Adow, confirmed that they are back on air and said they met with security officials Tuesday, but he declined to give details of what they discussed.

In the breakaway northern region of Somaliland, an estimated 10,000 people held a demonstration in support of the region’s quest for international recognition.

Somaliland declared its independence from Somalia in 1991 and has been relatively peaceful and stable compared with the rest of Somalia. But no country recognizes it.

The peaceful demonstration in the region’s capital, Hargeisa, saw protesters chanting slogans against Yusuf and waving the region’s flag.

Check Also

As Right-Wing Extremism Rises, Jihadism Still Persists

Six separate terrorist attacks took place in Europe between late September and late November of …