14 March 2005

East Africa: Regional Military Experts Endorse Peacekeeping Force for Mogadishu

Nairobi — The Hawiye clan controls a large part of the capital and has not fully accepted the new government, writes WAIRAGALA WAKABI

Regional military experts who spent two weeks in Somalia in February, studying the security situation ahead of the proposed deployment of a peacekeeping force to enable Somali's government relocate to Mogadishu, say the capital "has the highest potential for instability."

But the team endorsed the need for the peacekeeping force, whose initial members the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) has offered to provide under the Aegis of the African Union (AU).

Members of the team say the Hawiye clan controls a large part of the capital and has not fully accepted the new administration led by President Abdullahi Yusuf. In addition, there is profound rivalry between different groups that are all heavily armed.

Military experts and chiefs of defence of Igad member countries last week debated the assessment team's report, in a series of meetings that took place in Kampala.

Peter Marwa, Chief of Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution at the Igad secretariat, said the army chiefs would discuss the report on March 12 and 13, then the defence ministers would discuss it on March 14.

On January 31, Igad heads of state led by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni - the current chairman - met in Abuja, Nigeria, and agreed that there was urgent need to provide security support to the Somalia government to ensure its relocation to Somalia and guarantee sustenance of the outcome of Igad peace process.

A communiqu the meeting issued said Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda are committed to participate in the Peace Support Mission by providing troops or equipment.

The presidents instructed the Igad secretariat, in collaboration with the AU, to establish a fund to cover expenses for the deployment of the Peace Support Mission.

Mr Marwa said the Igad assessment team visited Somalia between February 14 and 26, during which it held discussions with some Members of Parliament that have relocated ahead of the government, businessmen, members of civil society, traditional leaders, and ordinary citizens.

The mission of the team was to assess the security situation on the ground in order to recommend the shape and strength of the Peace Support Mission.

On the team to Somalia were two military officers from Uganda and one each from Ethiopia and Kenya. The AU and the Arab League were also represented. However, Sweden, the European Union and Italy refrained from sending their representatives to Somalia.

Instead, their representatives remained in Nairobi where they were two weeks ago working with the Igad and AU team on fine-tuning the report to be discussed in Kampala.

The team found that there is less tension in Puntland and different clans co-exist in this area that is also experiencing development. The only exception in Puntland is the city of Galkayo where some tensions were reported.

The several armed people in most regions of the country were said to be some of the challenges the country will face.

But an analysis by the team shows many of these armed people are tired of fighting and are willing to surrender their arms once the new government is established.

Some influential Somali groups have opposed deployment in Somalia of troops from Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, all of which share a border with the country, which could present the first challenge to the regional and AU resolve for the peace mission.

Mr Marwa said Somalia's neighbours were eager to contribute troops because of their genuine desire to help the country re-establish a central government, and because they are directly affected by instability in that country. However, he said, it was not up to the experts to decide whether or not these countries should contribute troops.

Separately, Julia Joiner, AU's Commissioner for Political Affairs, told The EastAfrican that while the AU would listen to the concerns of the groups opposed to some countries contributing troops to the Mission, "the AU reserves the right to send any team because it is mandated to do so."

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