In a latest attempt to secure U.N. peacekeeping force, the top African Union officials unveiled the four-point plan for peace in Somalia last week.
Somalia has not had a stable government since 1991. The capital Mogadishu has been a site of escalating violence since the U.S.-backed Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia and ousted the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) forces in December 2006.
The escalating violence over the past year has led to a humanitarian catastrophe Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the top UN official for Somalia, called “the worst on the continent”. The AU Peace and Security Commissioner Said Djinnit said last Wednesday Somalia is becoming Africa’s “biggest security challenge”.
The African Union’s Ugandan troops, which are currently patrolling the aiport,
seaport, and the Presidential Palace in Mogadishu, have been struggling to control pockets of the capital Mogadishu since deployment in January 2007. The AU has been very slow in delivering the 8,000 pledged troops with only 1,600 Ugandans deployed in 2007. Eight hundred and fifty Burundian troops joined this month.
The AU officials have welcomed a fact-finding United Nations mission has arrived in Mogadishu last week. The U.N. delegation of 12 is charged with assessing security and possibly deploying U.N. peacekeeping troops there.
Until now the United Nations has been hesitant to deploy troops. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in November that Somalia was “too dangerous” for U.N. peacekeepers or even a detailed assessment.
While the Ugandans have been successful in stabilizing limited areas and returning business in the seaport and Kilometer Four areas back to normal, large pockets of strategic areas, particularly the Bakara market, remain outside the Ugandans’ control. “We would like to take hold of Bakara, but we need more troops,” says Captain Paddy Ankunda, the Ugandans’ spokesman.
Five Ugandans have been killed and six injured last year. The AU Col. Peter Elwelu has been also hopeful the AU experience will encourage the U.N. and more AU countries to send troops.
The four-point plan proposed by the AU will focus on political process reconciliation of clan-based differences, greater international involvement in peacekeeping operations, creating a safe environment for humanitarian aid deliveries, and building the capacity of federal government institutions to face these and other impending challenges.
The Commission’s main concern and challenge is to convince the U.N. security Council to re-deploy the peacekeeping operation which was packed up 13 years ago.
“We believe Somalia has been abandoned for so long, and the Security Council remains the principal body in charge of the maintenance of international peace and security, and Somalia is becoming the biggest challenge for security in Africa,” said Said Djinnit. “So we are therefore calling for flexibility on the part of the United Nations in deciding as early as possible on the deployment of the peacekeeping operation to come and take over from the African Union.”
The plea does not mean the AU is prepared for immediate withdrawal from Somalia. The mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has been extended for an additional period of six months on January 18. “I don’t see us pulling out of Somalia soon,” Elwelu says.