AU extends Somalia force mandate

2012-01-06 08:08
Addis Ababa - The African Union has extended the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Somalia by a further 12 months and intends to bolster its size to close to 18 000 to overcome al-Shabaab rebels, it said on Thursday.

The AU's Peace and Security Council urged the UN Security Council to endorse the force expansion, "to take advantage of the unique opportunity created by the operations being conducted against al Shabaab in different parts of Somalia".

Created in 2007, the force, known as Amisom, is made up of close to 10 000 troops drawn from Uganda and Burundi, well under the 12 000 authorised by the United Nations which helps fund Amisom.

Burundi and Uganda will deploy additional troops, Djibouti will send a contingent, while Kenyan soldiers who are battling al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab in three sectors in the south of Somalia will join the force, taking its size to 17 731, the AU said.

African military and diplomatic sources told Reuters the UN was likely to quickly approve the plan because the key considerations are the AU endorsement and the willingness of the troops-contributing nations to participate.

If the plan gets the green light from the UN it would effectively expand Amisom's mandate, currently limited to the Somali capital Mogadish, because Kenya forces are operating in the south, according to one AU official. Nairobi deployed troops after a wave of cross-border attacks and kidnappings it blamed on the rebels.

The Horn of Africa country has not had an effective central government for the past two decades, creating ideal conditions for radicals, who have launched attacks in the region in the past.

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