Africa needs cash for Somalia mission
The AU wants to put an 8,000-strong force of nine battalions in Somalia for six months.Updated:
The African Union appealed on Wednesday for urgent funding to activate a peacekeeping mission aimed at stabilising Somalia where an insurgency is brewing after a war over the New Year.
The AU wants to put an 8,000-strong force of nine battalions in Somalia for six months, then hand over to the United Nations. But cash pledges so far -- mainly from the European Union and the United States -- fall well short of its cost estimates.
"We are running out of time," Bering Mtimkulu, head of the AU's peace support operation division, told Reuters. "We need urgent assistance from the international community to help us expedite the deployment of the AU peace force in Somalia".
Facing daily attacks from insurgents in Mogadishu, the Somali government is eagerly awaiting the deployment of AU peacekeepers to replace Ethiopian troops who helped it oust a hardline Islamist movement over the New Year.
A wave of guerrilla-style attacks on the government and Ethiopian soldiers since the war have been blamed on both Islamist remnants and local clan militia fighting for control of parts of the coastal capital.
Uganda has said it is ready to send 1,500 troops as the vanguard. Nigeria, Ghana, Burundi and Malawi are also expected to contribute, bringing the total number pledged so far to around 4,000, according to the AU.
A Ugandan military delegation was in Mogadishu this week to prepare the deployment.
Ugandan President Museveni said he had secured funding, including from Washington, for his nation's involvement. "We have the courage but we do not have the money," he said.
Museveni also told a news conference late on Tuesday he was not worried by threats -- including on an Islamist Web site -- that the AU troops would be targets for jihadists or others.
"The militias have no good reason to worry about us because we are there to help them rebuild their state," he said.
"We shall engage those militias, we shall talk to them. 'We're not against you, so why are you against us?' We are not here to disarm them. We are here to help the transitional government form a national army."
In Mogadishu, new Interior Minister Mohamed Mahmud Guled proclaimed the city -- widely seen as one of the most anarchic and dangerous in the world -- to be "safe" even though he was speaking in a hotel targeted in recent mortar attacks.
"Mogadishu is safe and killings happen in every city in the world," he said in a rebuke to journalists. "I want you the media to report the good and not encourage people to flee."
Guled added that insurgents had changed tactics in recent days from mortar attacks on buildings to select killings.
"They changed to assassinating special people," he said.
The minister said the government had an action plan to secure Mogadishu, but did not give details. He also confirmed the government was in talks with some of its opponents, but again would not elaborate.
President Abdullahi Yusuf's government is the 14th attempt to restore central rule to Somalia since the 1991 ouster of a dictator ushered in the modern era of chaos. Formed in neighbouring Kenya in 2004, the government has a mandate until 2009 when elections would be held.
First Published: Feb 28, 2007 19:15 IST