UN Security Council approves African Union peace keepers for Somalia

Friday, February 23, 2007

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Location of Somalia.
Map of Somalia.

The U.N. Security Council has approved the deployment of an African Union-led peace keeping force in Somalia for a period of six months.

The 15 member council met last Tuesday (February 20), and unanimously authorized Resolution 1744, allowing African Union member states to establish a mission in Somalia "...to support dialogue and reconciliation in Somalia by assisting with the free movement, safe passage and protection" of those involved in the national reconciliation congress, including the federal transition government led by Ali Mohammed Ghedi.

Other goals will be to create the "necessary security conditions for the provision of humanitarian assistance", and to secure key infrastructure. The mission has been designated as AMISOM, an acronym that stands for African Mission in Somalia.

The initiative for the national reconciliation congress was announced by Somalian President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed during a recent summit of the African Union. In the resolution text, the Council reminds that the congress needs a broad base, with representation of the diversity of the Somalian people.

While exact numbers remain unknown, diplomatic sources spoke of some 8,000 troops that could be sent to the region, half of which would be provided by Burundi, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda. Ugunda would be the first to start with a phased operation to deploy their troops, some 1,500.

Ethiopia will not take part in AMISOM. The country's intervention in Somalia in December 2006, working together with forces loyal to Gedi, received much criticism.

Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi, who recently announced the retreat of the army from Somalia, admitted that he didn't wish for his country to be present any longer, and that the war only served to protect Ethiopia from the Islamic Courts Union, which controlled until last December the largest part of the country, including the capital Mogadishu.

For the purpose of the mission, the Council has lifted the arms embargo in effect since 1992, which it says has helped greatly for peace and security in Somalia. States supplying weapons and supplies still need to inform the sanctions committee, adding that the Council intends to "consider urgently" ways to strengthen the embargo's effectiveness.

Accompanying the resolution, the Security Council has asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "to send a Technical Assessment Mission to the African Union headquarters and Somalia as soon as possible to report on the political and security situation and the possibility of a UN Peacekeeping Operation following the AU’s deployment."