AU backs Kenyan troops joining Somali force
Addis Ababa- The African Union said on Friday it supported Kenya's offer to send troops to bolster its force protecting the embattled Somali government against Islamist rebels in the war-torn country.
"One of the best available options would be to include the Kenyan troops into Amisom [AU Mission in Somalia]," Ramtane Lamamra, Commissioner of the AU Peace and Security Council, told AFP.
Lamamra said the offer was backed during a council meeting Thursday with Kenyan and other regional officials on ways to defeat the Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab, he added.
Kenya has already acted in its own national interest by sending troops and tanks into southern Somalia last month to battle the extremist Shebab militia, who Nairobi accuses of attacks and kidnappings on its territory.
Lamamra confirmed that Ethiopia may also send troops to Somalia, although it is not clear whether they might join Amisom or the regional peacekeeping body, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad).
"These are issues that are being considered," he said.
Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006 with US backing, but pulled out three years later after failing to restore order in its lawless neighbour, which has lacked a functioning government for two decades.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Friday welcomed any moves by Ethiopia to send troops to Somalia.
"On the presence of the Ethiopian troops in Somalia, President Museveni said it was a welcome move as... Amisom forces are thin on the ground," a presidential statement read.
Kampala, which provides the bulk of troops for the AU force, had already welcomed Kenya's offer on Thursday.
To date, only Burundi and Uganda of the AU's 54 members have supplied troops to the 9 700-strong Amisom, despite calls to spread the burden across more countries, although Djibouti and Sierra Leone have offered forces.
The United Nations on Friday downgraded its famine alerts for three Somali regions, but warned that the crisis in the Horn of Africa nation remains the worst in the world with nearly 250 000 people facing imminent starvation.
Much of southern Somalia is controlled by the hardline al-Shabaab, who are battling both the Western-backed government in Mogadishu and Kenyan troops in the far south.