25 September 2010

Somalia: U.S. Seeks to Boost Ties With Breakaway Regions

The United States is strengthening its relations with two breakaway regions in Somalia while also urging Japan to help Kenya meet the costs of prosecuting Somali pirates.

Washington is further urging Japan and other countries to help finance an increase in the African Union troop deployment in Somalia, added Johnnie Carson, the assistant US Secretary of State for African Affairs.

Ambassador Carson said the higher US level of engagement with the Somaliland and Puntland secessionist regions will be coordinated from Nairobi.

"Our operations for Somalia, all of Somalia, are based in Nairobi," ambassador Carson told reporters at a briefing in New York.

Officials in the US embassy in the Kenyan capital will thus also be overseeing what ambassador Carson said are new efforts to engage with clans and sub-clans in south central Somalia that oppose Islamist insurgents but are not allied with the weak federal government in Mogadishu.

However, the assistant secretary did not indicate whether US personnel will be operating on the ground in south central Somalia.

The United States does not plan to extend formal diplomatic recognition to either Somaliland or Puntland, ambassador Carson added.

He said the US would, in these cases, follow the lead of the African Union in recognising only a single Somalia state.

The veteran diplomat made clear that the United States will not pay the full cost of additional African troops to the 7,200-member Amisom force now deployed in Somalia.

"We think that obligation should be shared broadly by the international community," ambassador Carson declared. He noted that piracy off the coast of Somalia has a negative financial impact on many countries.

In a meeting on Thursday with his Japanese counterpart, ambassador Carson said he encouraged Tokyo to help East African countries defer the cost of handling captured pirates.

"States like Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, the Seychelles incur an enormous amount when they take pirates, prosecute them and jail them," ambassador Carson said.

It emerged at the United Nations this week that soldiers assigned to Amisom are being paid at three-quarters the rate of UN peacekeepers.

UN-sponsored troops receive $1,080 (Sh84,600) a month in compensation while the African Union troops in Somalia are paid $750 (Sh60,000).

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