AU Calls For Somalia Peacekeeping

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African Union (AU) chief Alpha Oumar Konare has appealed to countries across the continent to help get troops deployed to Somalia.

He said troops, funding and other resources like aircraft were needed to ensure peacekeepers could be deployed as soon as possible. An AU force is due to replace Ethiopian troops, which helped Somalia's government oust Islamist militias.
Mr Konare was speaking in Ethiopia ahead of next week's AU summit there.

The BBC's Amber Henshaw in Addis Ababa says all eyes will be on the Ethiopian capital over the next few days as Africa's heads of state prepare to gather for the full summit which starts on Monday. At the summit's opening ceremony, Mr Konare said the AU should look to member states and not just to the international community to help get peacekeepers into Somalia. He welcomed the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops but warned if peacekeepers were not deployed soon the situation on the ground could deteriorate.

Mr Konare said he feared a tragedy could unfold in Somalia without rapid intervention. He said Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana and Malawi had now offered to send peacekeeping troops.

Among other issues on the summit agenda is a renewed bid by Sudan's President, Omar al-Bashir, to chair the AU. Last year he withdrew his candidacy after pressure from those - including the US - who said it was a contradiction for him to be president of the AU while its peacekeepers were in Sudan to protect Darfur's citizens from their own government.

On Thursday, an Ethiopian soldier was killed and another seriously wounded after unknown gunmen opened fire on troops at a market in Kismayo, southern Somalia.

In neighbouring Kenya, one of the main financial backers of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) routed from Somalia faces being sent back there after pleading guilty to illegally entering the country. A lawyer for Abubakar Omar Aden, a 72-year old businessman, who once controlled Somalia's El Maan port, said his life would be in danger if he was deported.

One of the UIC leaders, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, is also in Kenya, where he has held secret talks with US ambassador Michael Ranneberger. Since the Islamists were removed from power in Mogadishu, Kenya has closed its borders and deported dozens of Somalis who fled into the country.


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