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Ethiopia, Kenya may send troops to Somalia

2011-11-17 11:43

Addis Ababa - Ethiopia and Kenya are expected to discuss sending troops into Somalia on Thursday at an African Union Peace and Security Council meeting on the war-torn Horn of Africa state, a spokesperson said.

Kenya announced on Wednesday it wanted to commit troops to the AU Mission for Somalia (Amisom), one month after it sent its army across the border to fight Islamist Shabaab insurgents.

"We will see, they're invited to discuss," Nissa Roguiai said about whether Kenya's troop offer would be covered in the meeting.

Roguiai said members would also address a possible commitment of troops by Ethiopia to Somalia.

"It's only discussions, no consultations will be made, we're waiting for a commitment," she told AFP before the meeting.

If Ethiopia does commit troops, it is not clear whether they would be deployed under the auspices of Amisom or the regional body, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad).

Ethiopia previously invaded Somalia in 2006 with US blessing, but pulled out in 2009 after sparking a bloody uprising and guerrilla attacks.

Kenya's ambassador to Ethiopia Monica Juma, would not comment on her country's troop offer as she arrived at the meeting.

"I have not been in there yet," she said as she entered the chamber.

Swift deployment

Last month, Kenya sent troops across the border into southern Somalia to fight the al-Qaeda linked Shabaab after a spate of attacks including kidnappings blamed on the extremists on Kenyan soil.

It is not clear that if Kenyan troops do join Amisom, whether they would consist of forces already inside southern Somalia, or if the contribution would be of a separate new batch of troops.

The AU force, currently comprising 9 700 troops from Uganda and Burundi, is tasked with protecting the Western-backed government from the extremist Shabaab militia.

The AU has repeatedly called for the swift deployment of 3 000 more troops authorised by the United Nations last year, especially after Shabaab pulled out of fixed positions in the war-torn capital Mogadishu in August.

In addition to the conflict in Somalia, member states are expected to discuss upcoming elections in Democratic Republic of Congo.